Fifa should train players to treat heart issues, says agent
The agent of a late Cameroonian footballer has asked Fifa to train all players and coaches in how to treat victims of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA).
Hasan Anil Eken, whose client Patrick Ekeng died in such circumstances last year, believes this could prove crucial in a battle to save a player's life.
"With this injury, every second is very important to save lives," Eken wrote.
Fifa says SCA victims have "a success rate of 90% for resuscitation" if correctly treated within two minutes.
This involves using an automatic external defibrillator (AED), a device that sends a powerful electric shock to a heart to try to restore its natural rhythm.
After two minutes, the probability of success declines at a rate of "about 10% per minute", says Fifa.
Cameroonian Ekeng died in May 2016 playing for Dinamo Bucharest in Romania. The ambulance that treated him had no defibrillator.
Since early June, two Ivorian footballers have died of suspected heart issues - Cheick Tiote and Eugene Kouame - while Ajax midfielder Abdelhak Nouri suffered permanent brain damage after collapsing during a friendly.
"Football players are the ones who are closest to (each other) - timing is important," Eken said in his letter to football's world governing body.
"The education to football professionals can be done twice a year to improve (their) confidence."
Eken, an agent who is currently studying at Real Madrid's Graduate School, spoke to doctors from several leading European clubs about his proposal.
He says he was repeatedly told timing was the key factor in treating victims.
"Players should learn about first aid treatment - they should know what to do when these incidents happen," argues the Turk.
"If there is a doctor, he should be the one to do it first. But what if not? Imagine training where no doctors are around and a team-mate starts to have SCA.
"Players will have two choices - either helping the player from what they have learnt or risking time to call a doctor."
In 2014, Fifa introduced an app - called CPR11 - which provides users with "clear instructions on how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation", which also includes details on how to use an AED.
"How confident can players be after studying first aid treatment from an app?" asks Eken, who is not convinced by the practicality of players using such technology in an emergency situation.
Since Eken's client died, at least nine players - seven of whom are African - have died from heart-related issues.
He has also sought support for his proposal from Ajax in light of the end to Nouri's once-promising career.
Following Ekeng's death in May 2016, his agent proposed a new ruling called the 'Eken'g Rule' in which he called on Fifa to make small hospitals a mandatory requirement for every stadium.
The proposal was rejected by Fifa's then medical chief officer, Jiri Dvorak, on account of being unfeasible for logistical and financial reasons.
Dvorak has since quit Fifa but Eken says he has been more positive about his latest approach, with the Czech saying such a move "is possible" while cautioning that any decision lies in the hands of Fifa's lawmakers.
The Zurich-based organisation has yet to respond to the Turkish agent.
Examples of players assisting others on the field of play is not unheard of - with Togo's Francis Kone saying he has saved the lives of four different players who swallowed their tongue on the pitch during his career.