Cardiac Arrest in Soccer: a Sad and Inevitable Reality

Invisible, unavoidable and tragic, that's how cardiac arrests are often in soccer.

Sergio 'Kun' Agüero with the Barcelona uniform

The "Kun" had to leave the field 40 minutes into the game, and after a series of tests, it was determined that he had a cardiac arrhythmia. Photo: TW-AgueroSergioKun

Juan Manuel Londoño

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Leer en español: Paros cardíacos en el fútbol: una realidad triste e inevitable

On October 30, Sergio "Kun" Agüero, one of the most outstanding Argentine soccer player in the world, collapsed on the field in the Barcelona-Alavés match. The "Kun" had to leave the team 40 minutes into the game, and after a series of tests, it was determined that he had a cardiac arrhythmia. Although cardiac arrests in soccer are nothing new, this high-profile case set the alarm bells around the world.

Why do heart attacks happen in soccer players?

Cardiac arrest in soccer players can be caused by a variety of factors, but the most common are unfortunately hereditary. The first is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a disease in which the heart is thickened without any apparent cause and is inherited. Coronary artery abnormalities, defects in one or more of the heart's blood vessels, can also cause problems.

What can you do about it?

Unfortunately, most of the time professional athletes are already doing everything they could be doing for a healthier heart. These are people who exercise every day, who eat well, and the most strict do not drink alcohol. Additionally, since the factors that cause heart attacks are hereditary, the only thing that can be done in professionals is a good job of screening.

For example, in England, all soccer players receive an echocardiogram every two years, in order to detect heart abnormalities before they cause problems.

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On the other hand, having the necessary tools to treat cardiac arrest would also help prevent losses caused by them. The presence of a defibrillator in each stadium and adequate training of the medical staff is essential in this regard.

The COVID-19 factor

Of course, we couldn't finish this article without mentioning the "COVID-19" factor. This disease has been shown to affect the heart muscle and its function. One measure that could save many lives in the future is the vaccination of players.

Unfortunately, not all leagues in the world have been able to implement this rule. For example, a few weeks ago, the Premier League reported a vaccination rate of only 50%. Although it is true that the possibility of developing a heart problem from COVID-19 is low, leagues must take all precautions to protect the health of their players, who, after all, are the ones who generate income.