Smaller clubs must shape up
It’s ironic, sometimes, how mistakes made during serious incidents can lead to improvements and better practice. Last Saturday, Fabrice Muamba was given the best chance of surviving a heart attack by excellent care given to him at White Hart Lane.
If this had happened ten years ago, he may not have survived. Back then, there were no physios trained in advanced life support, no mandatory team doctors, no paramedics pitchside, no resuscitation equipment available and no ambulance on standby for the players. This is now at all Premier League and some Championship matches.
My big concern, however, is that this is not the case in the smaller clubs and lower leagues. A physio colleague recently joined a Football League club and soon found that he was the most qualified medical person in the stadium. On one occasion, he was even asked to see an ill supporter!
There was no resuscitation equipment or defibrillator on site at all. You could fully equip the club with the appropriate equipment for about £1,000. One player’s weekly wage at that level. Surely, it’s a small price to pay.
My level of knowledge in dealing with life-threatening situations, such as cardiac arrest, or head injuries was terrible when I first worked in football. Now, I have to do annual training in this area as well as regular practice in the club to keep my skills finely tuned in case of such an event. Otherwise, you are not allowed to run on to the pitch. In fact, it is a life skill and everyone should know basic life support … even children.
This high standard of medical care was brought in at Premier League level following incidents such as the fractured skull suffered by Petr Cech at Reading in 2006. Many issues such as the player not given oxygen, not immobilised on a spinal board, not taken immediately to hospital and closely monitored all led to the authorities reviewing the emergency procedures at football clubs. Thankfully, despite these faults, the player made a full recovery.
Another, more catastrophic, incident was when Marc-Vivien Foe collapsed when playing for Cameroon against Colombia in a Condederations Cup semi-final in France in 2003. The medical care pitchside was horrendous and no basic life support or defibrillation was administered to him on the pitch or at the stadium, which gave him no chance of survival.
The service administered to Muamba on Saturday was exemplary by both the Bolton and Tottenham medical personnel. It saved his life. Early CPR (Cardiac Pulmonary Resuscitation) and, most importantly, defibrillation, is essential to preserve life in this situation. They should be commended for their excellent service.
But let’s not leave this standard of care to the top divisions. This should be available to all footballers. Even a Sunday league game should have a coach trained in basic life support and have access to a defibrillator – for example, kept in the changing-room.
Let’s make sure we are prepared for these rare yet serious incidents in future, learn from them and make things better. And ensure that staff, supporters and even other players are appropriately trained at all levels of the game.
Well done the medical team at White Hart Lane … and get well soon, Fabrice!