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Why do medical teams at football matches still suck?

Posted Apr 25 2012 12:05am

So, I am watching this big football match between Barcelona and Chelsea. Me, 100.000 people at the stadium, and millions at their homes across the World. No football fan would ever want to miss this semi final UEFA Champions League game, which is just a special treat.

Anyway, during the first half an incident happens in the Barcelona’s penalty area. Didier Drogba, Chelsea attacker, was running towards Barcelona’s goal, trying to catch a ball passed to him. He was followed closely by Barcelona’s defender Gerard Pique. However, Barcelona’s goal keeper, Víctor Valdés, got to the ball first, and in the process knocked out Pique. He deliver a forceful blow with his hip to Pique’s head. It was not a pretty sight to see. His head made several uncontrolled movements, first from the blow, and then when he fell to the ground unconscious. OK. So what happens now. Me, I am thinking (and tweeting) they should immobilize this guy immediately, put a cervical collar on as a minimum, and surely not let him continue to play. OK. But what do they do. Some guys from Barcelona’s medical team rush to him, start slapping him. OK. His head is flying in all directions. They are not even considering to maybe at least manually stabilize his neck. So he is lying there unconscious for 30 seconds or so. OK. He starts responding, and all is good for these guys. They get him up on his feet, literally do a 5 second exam on him, and yeah man, no worries you are good to go. Get back in there champ.

Take a look at the video.

Is it just me? Or is this totally unacceptable. And sure, what happens next. He starts feeling quite unwell, and 8 minutes after the incident asks for a substitution. The latest news is that he suffered a light concussion and was being kept overnight in a hospital as a precaution after undergoing medical tests. With the medical care he received on the pitch, he is lucky if you ask me.

Here you have this extremely wealthy club in a sport that is turning billions, with players being super stars, earning more money during one minute of play, than you and me in a year. They are the most valuable assets of their clubs, and look how they are treated. OMG, is this for real. My advice to Pique and his colleagues, guys you have tons of money, get yourselves some private medical professionals who will follow you everywhere.

I really thought that these guys learned something, but it seams I was wrong. The guy who knows how medical teams at football matches suck big time, is Petr Cech, who just happened to be defending Chelsea goal when Pique was knocked out. On 14 October 2006, Cech suffered a serious head injury during a game. He and Reading midfielder Stephen Hunt both challenged for the ball inside Chelsea’s penalty area within the first minute of a league match at the Madejski Stadium. Hunt’s right knee hit Cech’s head, leaving him with a depressed skull fracture. Initially unaware of the seriousness of the injury, the doctors later reported that it nearly cost Cech his life, and as a result of the collision, he suffered intense headaches and was warned by his doctor that returning too early could be fatal. After this incident, the South Central Ambulance Service was heavily criticized. Chelsea’s manager at the time, José Mourinho, was critical of the time it took the ambulance to transfer Cech to hospital and Chelsea submitted an official complaint that led to a Premier League and Football Association review, and subsequently led to advances in emergency medical care in the UK.

Take a look at how Cech’s injury occurred, and “brilliant” care he received during the first minutes.

OK. So they learned something in the UK. And what happened to Cech probably had some influence in saving Fabrice Muamba’s life. He suffered cardiac arrest on 17 March 2012 during the first half of an FA Cup quarter-final match between Bolton and Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane. After receiving lengthy attention on the pitch from medical personnel including a consultant cardiologist who was at the game as a fan, Muamba was taken to the specialist coronary care unit at the London Chest Hospital. Muamba had received numerous defibrillator shocks both on the pitch and in the ambulance, but has recovered well, and on 16 April was discharged from the hospital.

Due to a professional team reacting fast, Muamba’s life was saved.

Unfortunately, we humans are really bad at learning for other people’s mistakes. This is what happened tonight in Barcelona, and what happened just some 10 days ago in Italy. On 14 April 2012, while representing Livorno, Piermario Morosini suffered a cardiac arrest and fell to the ground in the 31st minute of the Serie B match against Pescara. The News agency ANSA reported that a city police car was blocking the stadium’s exit for the ambulance for nearly a minute, but a heart specialist said that the delay made no difference. The delay made no difference. Sure, OK that makes it alright. And what about the quality of CPR provided by the medical team?

What can be seen from the available footage, the medical team was very disorganized. There was chaos on the pitch. No chest compressions were performed for a while, no chest compressions as he was put on the stretcher and transferred to the ambulance, no monitoring, no defibrillator attached, no oxygen attached to the bag valve mask, etc.

What strikes me the most is that we are talking about the best clubs and players in the World. Imagine than what is happening in less wealthy countries and in minor leagues. I am afraid to even think about that.

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