Michel D'Hooge determined to cut down on heart-related deaths on the football field
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (MAY 24, 2012) (REUTERS) -FIFA is setting up an international directory in every one of its 208 member associations to report cases of cardiac fatalities amongst footballers to try and work out why they are occurring with increasing regularity.
In the last two months alone, Italian Piermario Morasini, of Serie B side Livorno, died aged just 25, and Bolton Wanderers midfielder Fabrice Muamba, who was 23 at the time, suffered a cardiac arrest in a match in March but recovered after his heart stopped beating for 78 minutes.
Now FIFA's medical experts are asking member nations to advise them as soon as any of their players suffer a serious heart injury or collapse.
The medical committee will be seeking approval from the executive committee to set up the register as soon as possible.
Speaking after FIFA's second two-day medical congress in Hungarian capital Budapest, Michel d'Hooghe, the chairman of FIFA's medical committee, told journalists that 84 footballers, both professional and amateur, had died through heart problems over the past five years.
According to medical statistics, around one young person in 200,000 in the general population can die from such a condition, so with more than 300 million players in the world at all levels, heart-related deaths in football are statistically lower.
D'Hooghe said however, while the figure itself was not considered alarming given the amount of football played worldwide, the absence of defibrillators in 80 percent of cases was a concern
"The main word for us is prevention," d'Hooghe, said,
"We have profoundly discussed cardiac deaths. There is an absolute need for a defibrillator on every football field because it could be the difference between a matter of life and death. "Once that is decided then we will have to see how we manage. Don't forget that FIFA is already giving money to each national association so why could it partly not be sent to such a useful thing that is really considering life or death?"
Jiri Dvorak, Fifa's chief medical officer, said that the governing body still had insufficient information about cardiac arrests and that is why the registry was needed.
He also said there had been another 24 cases which did not end with a fatality.
"Sport makes us aware that nameless people may be dying due to not-known underlying disease so we can push the research, with strong support from FIFA, to get more information about this problem. For me those 84 cases are not alarming results, but it only shows that it exists and comparing to the incidents among normal population one to 200,000 we would expect with 300 million football players approximately 1500 deaths around the world per year."
He also said that players themselves could do more to help by stopping feigning injuries.
In a separate matter, D'Hooghe expressed concerns over the use of women wearing the Muslim headscarf or hijab during matches, saying more tests and improvements should be made to the current designs on offer before it is passed into law by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) on July 2.
"We have explained to them what is our medical position what are our medical objections and they promised to bring us new proposals," he said. "It will come in the coming days, we are waiting for the new proposals of the industry, but the decision is not to us, the decision is to the international board."