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Cardiac events in football and strategies for first-responder treatment on the field
  1. Christian Schmied1,
  2. Jonathan Drezner2,
  3. Efraim Kramer3,
  4. Jiri Dvorak4
  1. 1Cardiovascular Centre, University Hospital Zurich, Zürich, Switzerland
  2. 2Department of Family Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA
  3. 3Divisions of Emergency Medicine and Sports Medicine, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
  4. 4FIFA Medical Assessment and Research Centre (F-MARC) and Schulthess Clinic, Zürich, Switzerland
  1. Correspondence to Dr Christian Schmied, Cardiovascular Center, University Hospital Zürich Raemistrasse, Zürich 100 8091, Switzerland; christian.schmied{at}


Background The incidence and outcomes of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) and global strategies for prevention of sudden cardiac death (SCD) in football are not known. The aim of this study was to estimate the occurrence of cardiac events in football and to investigate the preventive measures taken among the Fédération International de Football Association (FIFA) member associations internationally.

Methods A questionnaire was sent to the member associations of FIFA. The first section addressed the previous events of SCA, SCD or unexplained sports-related sudden death within the last 10 years. Further questions focused on football player medical screening strategies and SCA resuscitation response protocols on the field.

Results 126 of 170 questionnaires were returned (response rate 74.1%), and 103 questionnaires (60.6%) were completed sufficiently to include in further analysis. Overall, 107 cases of SCA/SCD and 5 unexplained football-associated sudden deaths were reported. These events occurred in 52 of 103 responding associations (50.5%). 23 of 112 (20.5%) footballers survived. 12 of 22 (54.5%) players treated with an available automated external defibrillators (AED) on the pitch survived. A national registry to monitor cardiac events was established in only 18.4% of the associations. Most associations (85.4%) provide regular cardiac screening for their national teams while 75% screen teams of the national leagues. An AED is available at all official matches in 68% of associations.

Conclusions National registries to accurately measure SCA/SCD in football are rare and greatly needed. Deficiencies in emergency preparations, undersupply of AEDs on the field during matches, and variability in resuscitation response protocols and training of team-staff members should be addressed to effectively prevent SCD in football.

  • Cardiology
  • Cardiology prevention

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