ABU DHABI // Bolton Wanderers returned to Tottenham Hotspur last night for the first time since Fabrice Muamba collapsed with a cardiac arrest. And the physiotherapist who conducted the player's physical examination when he joined the Premier League club has called for Pro League teams to improve their stadium medical teams should a similar incident occurring in the Emirates.
"What we need in the UAE is better training and better facilities for the people who are pitch-side, for doctors and physios," Nick Worth, now the medical service director at Al Jazira, said.
"There are rules where you have to have paramedics pitch-side but in an emergency the first person on the pitch is a physio or a doctor. They are the ones who need to have everything at hand and the training to go with it."
Worth is trained to carry out emergency aid on the field, courtesy of the Resuscitation and Emergency Management Onfield (REMO) qualification that is now mandatory for all medical staff in the Premier League and the second tier of English football.
New regulations from the Asian Federation mean that soon, teams hoping to qualify for the Asian Champions League will be asked to be more comprehensive in their screening process of players. The Pro League, says Worth, will probably adopt the same principles over time (Jazira carries out cardiac tests on the first team and U17 teams).
"Increasing the screening isn't always the answer," said Worth. "So long as regular screenings are done anyway, increasing that number doesn't necessarily change things."
Instead, believes Worth, it was the "magnificent initial care from the physios, doctors and paramedics," aligned with other factors such as the quality of hospitals that saved Muamba's life.
"The biggest thing here is that we need to get people better-trained, have better facilities, to get people to carry oxygen, defibrillators and to know how to use them. The qualifications and facilities will be the things that make the difference."
Worth speaks from a forceful vantage point, given that Muamba's medicals and screening never revealed any heart disorder.
"The doctor did a medical examination on him, and I did a physical examination," Worth remembered of Muamba's medical in 2008. "We took into account his family history and then sent him for the standard tests, like an ECG, echo and blood test. He just had a standard medical the same as any club would do."
Muamba came out clear. "Fabrice has always been a very fit individual in terms of any physical work," Worth said. "He always looked after himself."
Worth was not watching the Bolton game when Muamba collapsed but was sent a text by his brother, a Spurs fan.
The UAE is not unfamiliar with such tragedy. In February 2000, Al Wahda's 17-year-old Nigerian striker John Ikoroma collapsed during a game and died later in hospital.
More recently, in November 2009, Al Nasr's Salem Saad collapsed during a training session following a heart attack and died later in hospital.
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