December 7, 2013
Death on the soccer field
The last of several recent deaths due to heart failure on a soccer field (here and abroad) happened at the end of August — a First Division C Laferrere player — and this immediately turned the spotlight on the problem here. But soon the matter is forgotten about and nothing happens. Immediately, the Argentine FA (AFA), Players Union and clubs are blamed.
The AFA refuted all charges. It says it checks all players at 13 when they pass from the infants to juniors divisions, but some who play in first divisions never played in the infants category. After that, it says, it is up to their clubs who, at the start of each season, have to send them a list of all their players certifying that they are medically fit. One player said that the AFA’s medical examination is not very thorough and that at many lower division clubs may not be either.
The Soccer Players Union, where C and D division players went to protest, says it does not really cover players in those divisions as, although getting paid, they are not proper professionals. But they did tell the protesting players that they would see what they can do which, as far as is known, has so far not amounted to anything. A union doctor mentioned that they offer free medical examinations to all players, but not many come as it is not an obligation. Top division players have medical insurance and can look after themselves, but others do not have it and may not be able to pay for it.
Ambulances should be present at all matches by law at all AFA divisions, but whether they all have the right equipment to deal with urgent heart attacks is another matter. Some of the clubs are also far away from proper hospitals and there are certainly no ambulances, nor doctors, present at many clubs when the players practice and when such accidents can also happen. And when talking of injuries during practices, these could occur not only in play but also when, as often happens, when hooligans enter the field with weapons to “talk” to the players to urge them to play better.
A doctor here said recently that more fatal heart attacks under the present precarious conditions do not occur “only by the grace of God.” But you cannot just rely on that without doing anything to avoid more deaths.
While everyone blames one another over this matter, there is only one excuse. Heart attacks can occur suddenly — for example, during hard effort or intense heart — even to a person who has had the most thorough medical checks, but this is less common.