Friday, December 3, 2021

How safe are our players to return to the field?

During Denmark’s EURO 2020 opener on 12th June, the world watched with abated breath and horror as Danish midfielder Christian Eriksen collapsed after suffering from a cardiac arrest.

For those in the stadium and millions watching across the world on live television, this was a harrowing incident now becoming too familiar with football.

In 2003, the world watched in horror as Cameroon international footballer Marc-Vivien Foye lost his life to cardiac arrest during a Confederations Cup semifinal match against Colombia.

Nine years later in 2012, it was almost a repeat of the same incident as the world watched in horror as Bolton Wanderers midfielder Fabrice Muamba received a lengthy medical attention on the pitch following a cardiac arrest.

However, unlike Foye, Muamba, as with Eriksen, lived to tell the tale, thanks largely to timely medical intervention.

The three incidents are not foreign to Botswana. In 2017, Township Rollers winger Gofaone Tiro suffered a cardiac arrest during his team’s training session. Like Foe, ‘The President,’ as Tiro was affectionately known, did not survive.

Now as Botswana football prepares to return to active play after a more than 465 days hiatus, questions will be raised as to how football is prepared for possible incidents of cardiac arrest, more especially due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Making a comment during the recent press briefing, Botswana Football League (BFL) chief executive officer (CEO) Solomon Ramochotlhwane said in the wake of the Eriksen scare, players’ health will have to be prioritized before teams return to play.

His counterpart at Botswana Football Association (BFA) said through the medical committee, as set of up skilled SHE officers will be out in place to ensure total compliance process to covid regulations.

But question is, is it enough? According to research, Covid-19 virus can lead to the damage of the heart, brain lungs and kidneys. However, there is no way to foresee which individual will suffer from this side effects.

It is also said that they many may experience lingering symptoms to this side effects. Which maybe shortness of breath, muscle aches, loss of stamina and exhaustion.

With this in mind, federations like the Confederation of African Football (CAF) has also put in place regulations to safeguard players who have previously been stricken by Covid-19.

As part of the process, players who have had Covid-19 are not allowed to play in CAF competitions without having done tests to prove they do not have heart related problems due to the disease.

Doing down memory lane, when the Zebras took on Zimbabwe for the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifications at the Obed Itani Chilume stadium; Mogakolodi ‘Tsotso’ Ngele had previously tested positive to corona virus.

Due to this, he was not allowed to take part in the game due to the side effects he may have acquired and had to wait a little while before getting back in the field. Unfortunately, football by then was on a halt.

Asked whether proper measures have been put in place to mitigate issues of cardiac arrests, BFL CEO sidestepped the issue and directed all questions on the issue to the BFA Medical Committee.

Attempts to solicit comment from the BFA Medical Committee chairperson Dr Lone Bogwasi however proved futile as he said he was in an all-day meeting.

The BFA Medical Committee chairperson had promised to get back to the publication but was not available when contacted.

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