In the aftermath of Christian Eriksen’s harrowing ordeal at the Euros, universal praise went to the medical staff on standby. Their quick thinking might well have saved a man’s life that night. However, it reminds us that cardiac arrests are a rare but real danger during sporting events and any time of life. This is why the importance of having the public trained in using defibrillators cannot be understated.
This can apply to any sport – be it the Champions League Final or an under 12s game at the local rugby club – and outside of schools or shopping centres. Eriksen was lucky to have excellent doctors and staff nearby to keep him stable, but this is far from the case for many who suffer a cardiac arrest without the world watching.
At the very least in society, coaches, players and referees knowing how to administer CPR would be a very useful asset, assuming that these amateur or semi-professional clubs do not possess defibrillators.
In the USA, it is compulsory in 33 of 50 states for coaches to know CPR. Meanwhile, in the UK nearly a third of adults are not likely to attempt CPR, according to the British Heart Foundation. They also found that 30,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests happen in the UK each year.
Because of this, it is completely logical for life-saving techniques such as defibrillator usage and CPR to be taught in the UK.
It is still unclear to doctors what exactly causes cardiac arrests. Potential explanations include irregular heart rhythms, age, or cardiomyopathy. Regardless of the source, what matters is that we are all susceptible to having one. This includes professional footballers like Christian Eriksen too.
In 2017, the British Heart Foundation teamed up with the FA to help equip grassroots clubs all over England with defibrillators, which is a step in the right direction.
As a rugby player, I know personally how player welfare needs to be a top priority. Despite rugby’s current crackdown is on head injury prevention, we cannot ignore the importance of those trained in resuscitation and having the right equipment. This goes for all sports: team or individual; contact or non-contact.
It also goes for areas all around the UK. Be it in shopping malls, next to bus stops, swimming centres, schools, and in local communities. Defibrillators save lives and being trained to use them, just as we are trained in schools to use computers, is vital.
We have all read tributes from grieving friends and family who have lost a loved one due to a cardiac arrest. It is nothing less than an absolute tragedy, having a loved one’s life taken away from them while they play the game that they love, or just walking down the street.
CPR training and defibrillator presence can truly be the difference between saving and losing a life.