Sport can teach us the fickle nature of fate

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Fabrice Muamba is not a household name in modern football terms, but the events of the past few days has left a permanent imprint on the minds of fellow players, coaches, and fans of the game the world over.

The Bolton Wanderers midfielder collapsed suddenly at White Hart Lane on Saturday in the club's FA Cup quarter-final clash against Tottenham Hotspur, rendering a game that previously had held such significance effectively meaningless.

As the 23-year-old former England U21 international resumes his slow recovery from the cardiac arrest that sent shockwaves through football, in the Heart Attack Centre at the London Chest Hospital, there has already been debate about how we can learn from the incident, and talk of how to improve the precautionary measures that must be taken continues to gather pace.

Speaking this morning at the Sport Industry Breakfast club in London, Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore announced plans to review the medical procedures to ensure that stricken players receive the best possible care.

"Incidents and events shape policy, shape developments, shape progress," he said. "What we will certainly be doing is looking at every aspect of what happened and if there are ways and means of improving, if there are ways and means of making it better in the future.

"We will do everything we can to make sure we reduce to the point of elimination, if we possibly can, things like that. There are no guarantees but we will do whatever we can to improve."

Muamba's heart is believed to have stopped for two hours following his initial collapse, but a statement this morning revealed that the Trotters star had a 'comfortable night' in hospital as the medical team continue to monitor his progress.

"It's been a difficult three days for everybody involved in the game, particularly those closest to Fabrice," Scudamore continued. "The whole of the last three days, we've played out lots of scenarios, clearly.

"Let's hope, God willing, that the progress he's making continues to be made and that he makes as decent a recovery as he can."

Addressing the media today ahead of Wednesday's Premier League clash with Chelsea, Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini spoke of his concern for Muamba, and demanded twice yearly medical screenings for all players after admitting he was worried not enough is being done to protect them.

"I was really worried on Sunday," the Italian said. "Today I have read he has improved and I am very happy for him and his family. But we need to improve the medical side for the players.

"We need to screen the players often, maybe two times a year and they have to be more accurate because they don't do this. When I saw our medical two years ago, I was really worried. I said we need to do them better."

Past problems in Italy led to a far more stringent series of medical testing than the ones that players must currently undergo in England.

"It is impossible that a young guy could die on the pitch because they didn't do a medical accurately," Mancini continued. "I want all the players, not just ours, to have more accurate medicals.

"This is really important for the players because football is totally different today than it was 20 years ago. It is very important. What happened to Muamba and other players in the past can't happen again."

It is understood that some of the Tottenham squad underwent tests for potential heart defects at the request of the players following the events of Saturday evening, when a cardiologist made a routine visit to the club's training ground in Essex on Monday.

Speaking to Sky News, sports cardiologist Sanjay Sharma said he was already due to test "one or two players", but added that "the players have all demanded cardiac screening".

"These cardiac arrests in young people are very rare, they affect about one in 50,000 people," Sharma confirmed. "These conditions are exceptionally rare.

"That involves taking a history relating to cardiac symptoms, which include chest pain during exertion or breath which is disproportionate to the amount of exercise being performed and blackouts, (and) asking about a family history because many of these conditions that can cause cardiac arrest are hereditary.

"We then perform a cardiac examination and following that we do an ECG (electrocardiogram) which is an electrical tracing of the heart which looks for electric faults of the heart and a cardiac ultrasound which looks at heart muscle problems or problems with the heart values."

Sport teaches us the fickle nature of fate, almost on a daily basis, but the reality is there can be no real preparation for the hand that Muamba has now been dealt.

The spirit and determination that allowed him to flee the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo as a child, is the same tenacity and strength of character that allowed him to rise through the ranks at Arsenal as a teenager, and propelled him into the Premier League spotlight.

Happily plying his trade at the Reebok Stadium, Muamba is a young player, and man with the world at his feet. His never-say-die attitude will be crucial once again in these most testing of times, as he embarks on the greatest fight of his life yet.

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Bolton Wanderers
Premier League
Fabrice Muamba

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