The case of a top footballer who suffered a sudden cardiac arrest has shone a spotlight on what should be done in such situations in the equestrian world. H&H finds out more
THE “vivid reality” of a top footballer’s sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) has highlighted how quickly action must be taken to save a life – and sparked more discussions in the equestrian community.
Danish midfielder Christian Eriksen experienced an SCA and was resuscitated on the field during the Denmark vs Finland European Championships match on 12 June. Following the incident, UK Coaching, in collaboration with Resuscitation Council UK, St John Ambulance and the Joe Humphries Memorial Trust, has produced a free “life-saving digital learning toolkit”, funded by Sport England, to help people learn what to do in the event of sudden cardiac arrest. The toolkit includes practice advice, videos, and an e-learning course.
In the event of an SCA, the heart suddenly stops pumping blood around the body and vital organs owing to an abnormal heart rhythm. Each year in the UK approximately 60,000 people have an SCA out of hospital, and only 1 in 10 survive. If effective action is taken within the first minute, it can treble someone’s chance of survival.
UK Coaching CEO Mark Gannon said the “vivid reality” of Eriksen’s collapse and resuscitation have shown just how fast others need to react in the event of a sudden cardiac arrest.
“It’s left many questioning if they would know what to do, where the nearest defibrillator is, and most importantly the need to give everyone, from coaches to players, facility staff, parents and spectators, the knowledge and confidence to act fast – because every second really does count,” he said.
Medical Equestrian Association chair Megan Hardman told H&H as a result of what happened to Christian Eriksen, many people have looked up how to use a defibrillator and how to perform CPR.
“What happened has already resulted in people upskilling themselves,” she said. “On the whole with equestrian events, we’re talking about older people having cardiac arrests, not the riders, because thankfully they’re still incredibly rare. It’s going to be more applicable to owners, spectators, parents, and grandparents.
“Training as many people as possible so they feel they can react in a way to improve the outcome in that scenario is always going to be a good thing. You only get one shot at it, and you have to be quick.”
Dr Hardman said it would be helpful if more equestrian venues considered having a defibrillator – but added that people also need to feel they can use them.
“You’re never going to do any harm by having too many of them,” she said. “But the most important thing I tell people when teaching first aid is to call 999 early. No one minds if you call for help and it is not needed. What they mind is if you don’t ask for help when it is needed.
“With defibrillators, it won’t do any harm putting the stickers on someone, because if they don’t need shocking the machine won’t shock them. I think people worry about causing harm, but if someone has had a cardiac arrest, they are dead. You can’t make them more dead, but you might be able to make them live. Empowering people to be bold in that situation is really important and can be really crucial.”
Accredited coach Fiona Mackinnon of Balhagan Equestrian is investing in a defibrillator for her livery yard, which also hosts unaffiliated competitions.
“It was something I had always thought about buying, but what happened to the footballer cemented the idea. We have all age groups here. It might not be the competitors themselves, but it could be parents, grandparents, you just don’t know,” she told H&H.
“The nearest defibrillator is about three miles from us and what worries me is if something happened, I’m the first-aider, and what if there was no one to go and get the defib unit three miles away?”
Ms Mackinnon also plans to buy a lockable unit to allow the defibrillator to be stored outdoors and made accessible to others in the community.
“It will be registered with a paramedic, so if somebody nearby phones 999, they get given a code to their nearest defibrillator – and that could save a life,” she said.
“Someone told me you can also hire them from £1 a day, which could also be a more feasible option for others and make them even more accessible.”
Companies including the Red Cross offer hire options.
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