Sudden Cardiac Arrest is the world’s biggest killer and can strike anyone, anywhere at any time, regardless of how fit and active you might be. In fact, some experts believe that athletes are three times more likely than non-athletes to be victims.
Heart attack vs Sudden Cardiac Arrest
Both are heart-related issues but they’re very different. A heart attack (myocardial infarction) is essentially a plumbing problem – an interruption in the flow of blood to the heart. The risks are increased by lifestyle choices such as smoking, obesity, excessive alcohol, poor diet or lack of exercise.
Sudden Cardiac Arrest, however, is an electrical problem. It occurs when the heart’s rhythm becomes irregular and can no longer pump blood effectively. Sometimes a heart attack – which isn’t necessarily fatal – will trigger a sudden cardiac arrest and the victim collapses, becomes unresponsive, stops breathing, and has no detectable pulse.
Unlike a heart attack, Sudden Cardiac Arrest isn’t as dependent on lifestyle and many people have no idea that they have an irregular heart rhythm until it’s too late. Even the fittest and active can be victims and athletes in peak physical condition who play at the top level of all kinds of different sports have been affected.
Fiorentina captain Davide Astori died last year from Sudden Cardiac Arrest and there was the famous incident of Fabrice Marumba, the Premiership footballer who collapsed on the pitch during a televised match. Marc-Vivien Foe of Manchester City, Phil O’Donnel of Motherwell, Belgian footballer Gregory Mertens have also been victims.
But it’s not just footballers who are susceptible. The golfer Bernard Gallacher, Ice-hockey players Rich Peverley and Jiri Fisher, rugby star Danny Jones and the 23-year-old cyclist Michael Goolaerts have all suffered Sudden Cardiac Arrests.
The England and Nottinghamshire cricketer James Taylor was recently forced to retire after the discovery of a serious heart condition similar to Fabrice Marumba’s. Nottinghamshire’s director of cricket said that Taylor was: ‘…the fittest boy on our staff – he’d be No1 on our fitness scores in every category – so rarely do we have to worry about him in terms of illness or sickness or anything like that.’
Checking for pre-existing conditions
Screening is mandatory in many sports and the FA, Lawn Tennis Association and Rugby Football Union scan their professional athletes as a matter of routine.
UEFA, Europe’s football governing body, requires all players to undertake screening which includes a medical examination, detailed analysis of medical history, a special cardiological exam and radiological and ultrasound scans. These screening processes help but they can never be completely effective when it comes to Sudden Cardiac Arrest – symptoms are not always present and heart conditions can develop at any time.
20 years of heart screening data taken from footballers aged 16 on the verge of turning professional showed that most died about seven years after a heart check that showed no problems. The data found a death rate of 1 in 14,700 instead of the previously estimated figure of 1 in 200,000.
John Moores University has carried out research into cardiac arrest in sport. It found that there are around 12 athletes between the ages of 14 and 35 who are dying from cardiac arrests per week in Britain alone.
What to do
The most effective way to help athletes is to be prepared for when an emergency happens. A quick response makes all the difference – if you can treat a victim with CPR and defibrillation inside 60 seconds, their chance of survival is as high as 90%. Within 5 minutes, it’s 70% but it drops by 10% every minute after this.
More and more communities and sports clubs are investing in defibrillators – and they’re saving lives.
In November last year, a young football player collapsed during a normal Sunday morning under 15 match. Thankfully, his life was saved because the club had a defibrillator and the referee knew where it was. The mother of the player said: ‘If we have learnt anything from the tragic event please let it be that these defibrillators need to be in every sports ground, school and street corner.’
The right defibrillator
Anyone can use an AED, you don’t need to have a medical background or any special training. You can’t make a mistake and it’s impossible to shock someone who isn’t having a cardiac arrest. The unit will analyse and assess the victim’s heart rhythm and make all the decisions, guiding you through each step of the rescue process by providing audio and visual prompts.
Getting the right unit for you is also important. You need something that’s quick and simple for anyone to use in an emergency, regardless of their medical training.
Martek Lifecare’s Lifeline is the easiest AED to use on the market and is lightweight and compact for portability. It also looks sleek, professional and non- threatening – something that’s an important factor for anyone feeling daunted when using an AED for the very first time.
Whoever you are, whatever your situation, we can help.
If you’d like to find out more about Sudden Cardiac Arrest or how to choose the perfect defibrillator package, please get in touch.