‘’I can play football like everyone else, no one has to worry about me.’’, is what Dutch football player Evander Sno wants to make clear after he suffered a cardiac arrest for the second time in two years.
Players and everyone watching the game between NEC Nijmegen and Feyenoord Rotterdam held their breath when Sno kneeled down with his hand on his chest during the match in the Dutch Eredivisie three years ago. All of the players knew that he collapsed on the pitch during a training session with his former club Ajax Amsterdam two years before. However, Evander Sno is determined to keep playing football on the highest level. ‘’The doctors ensured me that I am able to play for NEC.’’
Evander Sno isn’t the first football player who suffered from a cardiac arrest on the pitch.
Every now and then, this horrific event repeats itself in the professional world of football and always brings up a controversial question: should players with a heart disorder, for their own sake, be forbidden to play professional football?
In the highest Italian leagues, clubs decided not to contract players with heart problems anymore. This drastic decision is a preventive rule, set after Piermario Morosini collapsed on the pitch during the Livorno – Pescara match on April 14th 2012 in the Italian Serie B. Afterwards, it was determined that Piermario died from a heart attack. The Italian football association wants to prevent as much incidents like these and thinks this is the best way to do it.
The same kind of player protection is used in many clubs where unfortunate events like this have occurred. Portuguese top club Benfica for instance, who lost young talent Miklós Fehér because of cardiac- and breathing arrest in 2004 and Spanish Primera Division club Sevilla who lost 22-year-old Antonio Puerta.
But how far should these preventive controls go? Al lot of people with a heart condition already have it since they were born. So should all children playing in youth teams of professional clubs get a full body research during their journey of becoming the next football star? You will crush the dream of a 13-year-old boy when you tell him it is better to stop their early career in football.
I asked my brother what he thought of the situation, since he has played at Dutch professional football club FC Utrecht for 6 years. ‘’When I started playing for FC Utrecht years ago, I had to pass a medical examination. If the medical staff of FC Utrecht is concerned about those results, I think an extra heart examination would be appropriate. Players like Evander Sno and Lorenzo Ebecilio ( former Ajax player) play with an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD). This is a device that, in case of a cardiac arrhythmia, will control the heartbeat and makes it return to a normal tempo. Doctors and specialists approved Ebecilio and Sno to play on the highest level, so I think extreme measurements like the one in Italy are not the right way to deal with the problem. Talented players like Sno and Ebecilio won’t have a future in one of the biggest leagues in the world because of this and that’s a shame. Every player with possible problems should be examined separately.’’
A difficult issue in this discussion is the impact of the decision on the player. Every football player lives for their sport and worked really hard to becoming footballer. Then to get the message you’re not allowed to play anymore is a breaking point in their life. A lot of athletes, not just in football, didn’t go to college or don’t have any working experience. It will be hard for them to emerge into the society of an ‘’average’’ person.
On the other hand, footballers shouldn’t just think about themselves. They also have family and friends and shouldn’t take the risk of a possible death when they know better. When you watch the viral video of Miklós Fehér tragic death, the emotion expressed by his team members is so painful. When you have the power to prevent this, you should. Evander Sno understands this responsibility. He says: ‘’When my doctors say ‘Evander, it’s over’, I will stop immediately.’’
When you perform in a sport on the highest level, your body has to cope with extreme conditions. When an athlete has any kind of heart disorder, his or her heart may not be able to handle the actions the body demands from it. Nowadays, there are a lot of innovations in developing devices like defibrillators, so athletes with heart issues will still be able to perform on the highest level. Nevertheless, the human body is full of surprises. No one could have predicted the death of Piermario Morosini, he seemed perfectly healthy. So, It will be impossible to completely ban such terrible incidents out of the world of sports. As long as there is as a lot of preventive research, all we can do is hope that these occurrences will stay at a minimum.