The world watched in horror as Denmark’s Christian Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest during his country’s Euro 2020 opening match against Finland earlier this month. The aftermath of this dramatic incident is bringing into sharper focus the use of defibrillators in sports and the screening of athletes.
The disturbing scenes that unfolded on the pitch in Copenhagen have also brought to the forefront studies that suggest athletes with cardiac disease are two-and-a-half times more likely to die than someone who isn’t engaged in sports activities.
Having defibrillators at all grounds is mandatory in the National League system down to level four. Even at lower-level leagues, 90% of the clubs at levels five and six have it. Furthermore, the Football Association is even working on getting subsidised defibrillators to grassroots clubs.
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) reported a 2000% increase in traffic related to CPR and defibrillators after the Christian Eriksen incident.
The spike in interest isn’t surprising since Eriksen’s condition served as a reminder that even young and fit individuals are susceptible to heart attacks.
“This is an opportunity to raise the shortage of defibrillators in the public perception. Around 12 people under the age of 35 will suffer sudden cardiac death every week. These are preventable if they have access to defibrillators,” said Dr. Rob Cooper, Liverpool’s pitchside cardiologist and the consultant at the Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital.
“Public access defibrillators are only used in about 5-10% of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests. The UK coverage is patchy, and one of the issues is that there is no combined central database to know where every defibrillator is. London has about three per square kilometer, Seattle has about 13 per square kilometer, so we are underserved.”
A 2018 study found that the likelihood of sudden cardiac death among footballers between the ages of 16 and 17 is one in 14,700.
The study, conducted by St George’s University in London and analyzed more than 11,000 players, also concluded that risks are even lower when it comes to older players.
But that’s unlikely to end calls for a review of emergency action plans in sports.
For his part, Eriksen is out of the hospital, following a successful operation, while Denmark advanced to the knockout phase of Euro 2020 to face Wales. Most online betting venues have Denmark as the favourite to advance to the quarter-finals.