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Cardiac Defibrillators in Football, a High Time to Act

Submitted by on May 26, 2012 – 12:40 PM 7 Comments

Touted by the high number of sudden cardiac arrests and deaths in recent years, as well as a few high profile player collapses in the football field, FIFA (International Football Association) has declared in Budapest on May 24 2012 that they want a defibrillator at every game during FIFA tournaments.

The move comes on the sidelines of the Second FIFA Medical Conference where an official report declared that over the past five years 84 footballers have died due to cardiac problems while playing or on training. Official data has also showed that only 55% of the football matches had a defibrillator machine and only 28% of training set-ups had defibrillators.In a bid to save the life of footballers whose sudden collapse on field created considerably hype and drama, FIFA has taken a three pronged strategy:

1. Ensure all players undergo a basic medical examination before every match. 2. Making it mandatory to all games whether in matches or training to have defibrillators as well as persons trained to give CPR or use AED

3. Register all cases of collapse in the field and report them to FIFA for further evaluation of pathology.

The considerable thought that has been put up in this model is clearly a model to emulate for other sporting bodies and organisations worldwide. FIFA via its dedicated specialised sports medicine research unit F-MARC in the past two decades have published more than 230 publications on sports medicine. FIFA did not stop there it analysed all the data, converted it into useful information and put into action the resultant knowledge.

While this move is very likely to save dozens of more lives in the future and help generate an enormous wealth of data which will help in sports medicine its enormous repercussions of public health should not be ignored.  Football is highly popular among the youth in many nations across the world it is expected that a whole gamut of people will develop interest in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated electrical defibrillators (AED). Youngsters who ape their favourite football star will definitely look forward to learn up this life saving skill to become “a real-hero”. With more and more people learning this skill it will definitely help save lives of not only football players but also millions around the world. Jiri Dvorak has famously put this forth as

“When football speaks, people listen”, Read more about FIFA’s Football for Health program where this principle has been used in a later post of the Series



Scientific Evidence clearly indicates that most victims of Sudden Cardiac Deaths (SCA) can survive if bystanders act immediately. An analysis of out of hospital cardiac arrests shows that more than 25-30% of the SCA’s are due to VF (ventricular Fibrillation). Few are reported to have been suffering for a genetic disease named Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HOCM). However for most cases by the time medical help is reached and the first ECG recorded, they are in asystole and hence the chances of successful resuscitation minimal. This is on account of the fact that CPR is successful only if it effectively commences within 6 minutes after blood flow to the brain stops. After four to six minutes the brain cells become dormant and resistant to measures of traditional resuscitation. The optimum treatment is thus immediate bystander CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation) plus early electrical defibrillation. With AED’s (automatic external defibrillators) becoming available more and more even common people with basic training can do what has been considered an exclusive domain of medical professional’s—

“Save a dying man’s life”.



The article is the first in the popular medicine series titled Football & Medicine

Coming Next in Football in Medicine: Promoting Health with Football, Concussion Injuries in Football and more….

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  • Haris Riaz

    This is incredibly well written, good work Soumyadeep. I never knew so many preventable cardiac deaths are associated with soccer!

    • Soumyadeep Bhaumik

      More to Come Dr Riaz.. on non-cardiac problems of soccer ….

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  • Anis

    Thanks Soumyadeep. Its a good article and I see many people liking it on the soical media. Good job..

    • Soumyadeep Bhaumik

      the count as of now  is just 69 in facebook… hoped for a 3 digit figure

  • Soumyadeep Bhaumik

    A Medicine professor from India have after reading the article has put forth this to me via facebook
    This discussion can also extend to asking the following questions? a) what congenital cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of non-traumatic sudden athletic death? b) What would be the best way to screen for it?

  • Sidra

    Very well written indeed! 

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