On Saturday 12 June 2021, the first day of the Euro 2020 competition, Christian Eriksen collapsed on the pitch within 42 minutes of the Denmark-Finland game.
This caused worldwide concern as to why Eriksen’s heart failed for a brief moment, and why football in general has failed to tackle the issue of heart disease.
So what exactly happened?
The Danish Midfielder suffered from a cardiac arrest. Medics on
the pitch, after several attempts of CPR, helped Eriksen regain consciousness
and was later that day stabilized at the hospital.
Unfortunately he will probably be unable to professionally play for the foreseeable future.
What is cardiac arrest?
This occurs when the heart stops beating and blood doesn’t flow to the body. Hence the medics using CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), or chest compression resuscitation, to revive Eriken’s heartbeat by increasing the heart’s blood flow.
It decreases the amount of oxygen and blood flowing in the brain, explaining why Eriksen collapsed as though he fainted.
The most common cause of cardiac arrest is ventricular fibrillation (VF), a phenomenon that changes and ultimately threatens the normal heartbeat into an unorthodox, abnormal rhythm.
Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) has also a major influence on the heart due to fatty deposits blocking the arteries, causing at best chest pains, and at worst heart failure.
As to why Eriken’s heart momentarily failed however is, at least in the public’s eye, yet unknown.
What should you do if you see someone having a cardiac arrest?
Learn the ABCs. Medics remind themselves of the following algorithm, but it should be remembered by everyone in case an unfortunate cardiac arrest occurs. Please follow in this order:
· Airway - Any obstruction to the airway will cause choking, so make sure it is clear.
· Breathing - As soon as you find out the airway is clear, always make sure the person is breathing. Also listen to each breath and check if it is deep or shallow to see if there is any breathing deformity.
· Circulation - Should the person not be breathing, chest compressions (CPR) and rescue breathing (providing vital oxygen supply by breathing into the person’s mouth) is necessary. Check also of signs of sweating and colour changes to the skin.
· Disability - Check the person’s level of consciousness. See if there are any limb movements if the person is responsive to voice or pain, any signs of alertness, or if they are completely unresponsive.
· Environment/Exposure - Check the person’s skin conditions and temperature. Are they suffering from hypothermia? Any signs of scars, injuries, etc?It goes without saying but please call emergency services and or tell others to call and inform emergency services if you did any of the ABCs.
A lot more goes into this, which is why after Eriksen was discharged from Copenhagen’s hospital, he was fitted with an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD). It’s placed under the collar bone with thin wires connected to the heart to monitor the heart’s rate and rhythm.
Although Eriksen's operation was a success, a deeper dive into cardiac arrest is important for not just fan-awareness, but most crucially the wellbeing of players.