Saturday, May 30, 2020

Cardiac arrest: A silent sportsperson’s killer

BY ANITA RANNOBA

In 1997, Africa experienced its ever first loss as a result of a player suffering cardiac arrest. Finest player Hedi Berkhisa, died immediately after a match due to a heart attack.

His death was a big loss to many countries especially those in the African continent. As a consequence, no precautionary measures were taken to avoid a repeat.

Six years after Berkhisa’s tragedy the world watched live as Cameroon star, Marc Vivian Foe, lay dying of a heart related attack while playing for his country in a FIFA Confederation match against Colombia in France.

The death of Foe, who was at his peak an playing for English Premier League side, Manchester City, albeit on loan, sent shockwaves around the world.

Immediately after his death, world football body FIFA made it compulsory for teams all over the world to do intensive cardio tests for their players to prevent future happenings of this sort.

Even after this, it seems many countries have not heeded the call. There are still similar deaths, especially in the African continent Botswana included.

Sudden death in sports still remains a difficult challenge to prevent. It is alarming that a year cannot pass without a case of cardiac arrest in any of the sporting codes.

Just recently, First Division South club Matebejane lost their player Justice Sebopi.  The player is reported to have collapsed while training in his home town of Selibe- Phikwe.

In 2017, Botswana lost a promising star, Gofaone ‘The President’ Tiro through the some tragedy of heart attack. The 26 years olds death hit hard on his team Township Rollers and from there on, the team has vowed to ensure proper health care to its players to help avoid such a case again if possible.

A month after Tiro’s demise, another player, Leatile ‘Satter’ Seetabosigo of Mahalapye based Santa Green football club ‘collapsed and died at training.’   

During an interview with this publication, Rollers’ Public Relations Officer (PRO Bafana Pheto mentioned that after the death of Tiro, they ensured that they had a medical practitioner always during training and during games to ensure that whatever happens players would be attended to well in time before its too late.

In trying to curb and better the situation, the BFA Chief Executive Officer, Mfolo Mfolo, noted that it is mandatory that check-ups are done at the beginning of the football season. Highlighting that teams are required also to have doctors to monitor the health of players to curb any ill- fated accidents as and when the need arises.

“The club licensing is a statutory requirement that compels teams to do medical checks, educating teams on the health of players which must be a regular check- up. Mind you this is a holistic approach of the stakeholders involved, FA, teams and individual players based on their birth medical records,” Mfolo said.

Adding that it is an unfortunate and isolated case which they will endeavour to educate teams and encourage them to make the health of players a priority.

According to Metro Salutem,’ heart attacks can happen in a structurally normal heart but there is some abnormality in the way electricity flows in the heart. This leads to abnormal heart rhythms called rhythmophathies. Some of these can be fatal’.

In giving feedback about the issue at hand, DR Lesedinyana Odiseng said, he has given many talks about sudden death indicating how important it is for players to have Pre- Completion Medical Assessment (PCMA). But if no one is willing to listen there will never be change.

“As long as associations are not willing to listen to professional advice, we will continue to lose players. It is to Rre Tshekedi Khama to launch an investigation into the health of these players and take appropriate action,” he said.

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Sunday Standard May 24 – 30

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of May 24 - 30, 2020.