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Safety in the Sports Arena

Time for Action: European Society of Cardiology Statement

Cardiac arrest during professional sports activities has occurred in the past. Unfortunately, this has not led to a general improvement of the situation in Europe. The recent case of British football player Fabrice Muamba is, regretfully, a sad reminder of the need to adhere to existing guidelines for the screening of athletes and safety in big gatherings, especially (but not only) in professional sports events.

Ventricular Arrhythmias and Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD)

The European Society of Cardiology (ESC) has repeatedly made calls for the screening of athletes (i)  and for the placement of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in public places hosting large mass events, including sports arenas (ii).

According to ESC experts, the present situation in Europe has been suboptimal with no European recommendations regarding acute cardiovascular care at sports arenas existing until the recent ESC initiative (iii).

In order to maximize the survival in case of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) occurring during sports events, the Sports Cardiology Section of the European Association of Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation (EACPR)(iv)  of the ESC has made recommendations for minimum standards for emergency cardiovascular care (for both spectators and athletes) at stadiums in Europe. These include having a designated medical director, trained cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) responders, adequate equipment such as AEDs, transportations resources, collaboration with local emergency medical system and studying the geographic layout in order to allow medical personnel to navigate large crowds in case of emergency.

ESC Spokesperson Professor Mats Borjesson, from Göteborg, Sweden, lead author for the “Consensus Document regarding cardiovascular safety at sports arenas” concludes:
"It is sad that a tragic incident such as Fabrice Muamba' cardiac arrest  has to happen to bring safety at stadiums across Europe to the agenda. The presence of a cardiologist in the crowd was instrumental in providing Muamba with treatment and increasing his chances of survival. The ESC hopes that the relevant authorities in Europe are taking notice and will decide to implement action plans in order to screen athletes adequately and to ensure that minimum standards of cardiovascular safety are in place during sports events."