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Monday, 19 March 2012

Fabrice Muamba

I'm sure that if you didn't see this game in progress, that you will at least definitely have heard about this story on the news. During a football match between Bolton and Spurs on saturday, Bolton's Muamba suddenly collapsed after about 40 minutes of play. He had not been contacted in any way, nor was he moving particularly vigorously - he simply fell to the ground. Obviously, play was stopped and both players and officials were very quick and keen to whistle on the hospital staff. Six medical staff rushed over to try and stabilise the 23-year old, before he was rushed to the London Chest Hospital. A video of the incident can be viewed here.

It is always very concerning when a very fit and healthy 23-year old suffers from such a catastrophic and sudden heart attack. In 2003, Cameroonian footballer Marc-Vivien Foé suffered a very sudden heart attack, similar to Muamba. He was not contacted, he was not even near other players, however he died right there on the pitch. Similarly in 2004, Hungarian footballer Miklós Fehér suffered a sudden heart attack on the pitch, from which he died within a few hours. Fehér was issued a yellow card, to which he bent forward to sigh upon the penalty, before falling backwards and collapsing. Both incidences can be viewed here.

What these two footballers have in common (and I suspect Muamba too) is that both died from cardiac arrest, caused by hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. 

The U.S. National Library Of Medicine defines hypertrophic cardiomyopathy as:

"Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a condition in which the heart muscle becomes thick. The thickening makes it harder for blood to leave the heart, forcing the heart to work harder to pump blood...Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is often asymmetrical, meaning one part of the heart is thicker than the other parts. The condition is usually passed down through families (inherited). It is believed to be a result of several problems (defects) with the genes that control heart muscle growth. Younger people are likely to have a more severe form of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. However, the condition is seen in people of all ages."

The most severe symptom of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is sudden heart failure, seen in young athletes. This condition is so dangerous as it often has no obvious symptoms and would be undetectable unless it is found through a (very thorough) medical examination.

Obviously this is a terrifying condition. We are all, especially at a young age, encouraged to eat well and exercise frequently to keep our health up. Well these three individuals all did that - their careers depended upon their fitness. It is scary to think that despite their best efforts, they can be ambushed by hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in such a way that two of the three died soon after cardiac arrest (luckily Muamba appears to have been stabilised now). Especially through watching the videos, it is like the hand of God has come down and attacked them with one fell and fatal swoop. It is a truly tragic condition and it is a very distressing situation seeing a player collapse as such, and seeing the horrified and distraught reactions of his teammates and the crowd. Traumatic to say the least. All we can hope for is, I guess, better and more frequent screening for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

Let's hope Muamba holds up and makes a swift return!

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