Luton Town’s captain Tom Lockyer collapsed on Saturday, December 16, during a Premier League game between Bournemouth and his team in the Vitality Stadium, leaving his teammates speechless. This was the captain’s second incident of that kind, with the first occurring back in May during Luton Town’s victory over Coventry City in the promotion play-off final.
Tom had heart surgery following the first incident and the doctors allowed him to return to play in the coming months. The latest news is that the club has received information that he is stable and that the medical staff are performing several scans. The Premier League Association still has to decide when the match will be played.
Tom’s case is only one of several involving football players in recent years. The most well-known incident involved Danish player Christian Eriksen who fainted during Denmark’s game against Finland in the 2020 European Football Championships.
Football fans are also likely to be familiar with the incident involving Argentinian star Sergio Aguero while playing for FC Barcelona since it led to him retiring from the game. During a match between FC Barcelona and Deportivo Alaves, he was unable to continue playing as he was feeling unwell.
Number of cases
A total of 617 cases have been reported between 2014 and 2018, according to the FIFA Sudden Death Report. The highest peak was reached in 2021 with 18 cases. Numerous reports then connected this to the effects of the COVID-19 vaccine. The number of cases demonstrates that the issue is still there and that there are still a lot of cases occurring.
Why this is happening?
According to some experts, there are several reasons for this:
Over the past few years, FIFA has decided to add new tournaments, such as the Conference League and UEFA Nations League. Players are forced to play twice as many matches as they did in the past. The clearest example is the case of Pedri, a former player for FC Barcelona, who participated in 73 matches across eight different tournaments during the 2020 season.
In addition to the obvious risk of severe injuries, athletes who play this many matches run a higher risk of cardiac arrest and cardiac arrhythmia. The worst thing is that more matches will be played in the Champions League starting next year, and by 2026, more international events are anticipated by FIFA.
When it comes to pressure, football players experience a wide range of emotions all year long. And the pressure from the media, supporters, and club members doesn’t help. To perform well on the pitch, players need to manage these outside variables, which increases the risk of cardiac arrest.
According to a Global News study, football players are more susceptible than other sportsmen to an electrical malfunction that results in arrhythmia, even though they are elite athletes in good physical condition. This is mostly due to how much physical and mental effort they put in.
These are the reasons why several players are suffering from heart attacks. The key question that a lot of players may have on their minds is: Is it possible to reduce the intensity of the game? Only time will tell but, by adding more matches FIFA is making things worse.
Text: Raúl Pérez
Featured image: Niklas Jeromin via Unsplash
Photo Parken Stadium: Leif Jørgensen, CC BY-SA 4.0
Photo Vitality Stadium: Matthew Jackson, CC BY-SA 3.0
Photo Camp Nou Stadium: Johannes Falke, CC BY-SA 3.0