Football Saves a Life

Written by Eamonn Salmon, CEO, League Medical Asoociation featured in FC Business Magazine this month

On the 17 March 2012 news around the world told of events that unfolded with the collapse of Fabrice Muamba due to a cardiac arrest in the middle of a televised football match seen by millions. With the referees signal to the Bolton bench, what followed threw sharp focus on emergency procedures that were in place for just such an event. The relatively low profile of the Medical staff in Professional Football Clubs was overnight raised suddenly to an astronomical level.

Fabrice Muamba, thankfully now, is recovering in hospital and the fact that he is alive today is testimony to the skilled training of those in immediate attendance, and to these very procedures..

But, for those Medical Practitioners – physiotherapists, GPs and paramedics – who are or have been involved in the game at this level however the work that was done to keep Fabric alive was nothing more than what should be expected. Not exactly all in a days work, but nonetheless step by step guidelines that are followed and executed with the skill and competency that high level of training affords.

Post event, the spotlight and scrutiny began focussing on the medical teams at Professional Clubs and these procedures that are in place for such an eventuality. And there is no question that on this occasion the FA, the Premier League and the Clubs themselves have not only withstood that scrutiny but have emerged with their reputation enhanced. Quite right. First the FA have been very focussed on Emergency Care and have 3 levels of training in place to address the need for excellence in First Aid and Resuscitation.

Second, the Premier League have insisted on the highest level of training (AREA – Advanced Resuscitation and Emergency Aid) for those in attendance at matches, and third the Clubs themselves have funded this level of training. Together, they have saved a life.

But what about the rest of the Leagues from the Championship downwards. Would a player survive if this had happened at Accrington Stanley or Mansfield Town?

The answer is probably yes, since Doctors, Physiotherapist and Paramedics are on hand at every game and having a defibrillator close at hand is now mandatory for all Professional Clubs.

But of course, cardiac arrests don’t wait for a League match before unleashing. What if this had happened at the training ground and the Head Physiotherapist was at an away fixture with the First Team? That’s a different story.

The AREA Course is not currently mandatory in the championship and divisions below. Some staff at this level have taken the training regardless and in many cases have funded themselves at a princely sum (approximately £750). Yes, physiotherapists do have an obligation to attend a basic resuscitation programme every 3 years or so but these courses are not to the same level as the AREA course which is now run by the FA. If a young member of staff finds himself alone at a distant training ground the outcome of a cardiac arrest/head injury may be somewhat different to that witnessed at Tottenham.

The knee jerk reaction is to call for all staff to have the level of training needed to deal with such situations. In this case, that reaction is probably right. Should the FA/Football League and Clubs combine to fund the training then the possibility exists that at any time and any where within Professional Football, such events can be met with appropriate care and satisfactory outcome. Surely staff can’t be overtrained in this field.

One of the aims of the League Medical Association (LMedA) is to ensure that high quality medical provision is as accessible at Torquay as it was at Tottenham.

Many procedures such as medical screening, heart monitoring, health checks and Club transfer medicals can be standardized. So too, can the level of trainin that medical staff receive. This standardisation is the way forward and ensures continuity of care and ‘best practice’ throughout the leagues. Money and funding should not stand in the way.

If this was to be the outcome following Fabrice’s plight in March then some good at least will come of this tragic event.

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