News of the sudden death of Cameroonian footballers Patrick Ekeng and Jeaning Djomnang over the past week has left Cameroonians shocked, with friends, family and football fans calling for a thorough investigation into the cause of their deaths.
Ekeng, a 26-year-old midfielder for Dinamo Bucharest Football Club in Romania is said to have collapsed on the pitch during Saturday’s match against Viitorul Constanta in Romania. He is suspected to have suffered a heart attack shortly after arriving as a substitute in the 62nd minute. Ekeng was rushed to the hospital where he was pronounced dead two hours later.
Two days later, the Cameroon women’s soccer team’s goalkeeper Jeanine Christelle Djomnang, 26, collapsed and died during a warm-up session, raising further questions over the health and safety of players.
Romania’s football union has raised concern over the insufficient first-aid treatment offered to players by their clubs. “It is clear that some Romanian clubs have a history of skimping on medical facilities,” the union said.
The union’s statement comes after it has emerged that the ambulance which carried the Cameroonian footballer didn’t have the necessary equipment to support a patient. Investigations also revealed that the defibrillator installed in the ambulance had expired batteries and the medicine used for resuscitation had expired.
Romania’s Ministry of the Interior issued a statement on Sunday suspending the license of Puls, owners of the ambulance that took the Ekeng to hospital. The ministry also imposed a fine of 23,800 Leu on the company and questioned the company’s capacity to offer medical services.
Major Concern Over Sudden Cardiac Death in Athletes
The appalling statistics of soccer players who have died after collapsing on the pitch have left many in the football world concerned about players’ safety and overall health.
According to FIFA, even seemingly healthy players are at risk of sudden cardiac death. The world’s football governing body further recommends all players to only play when they feel fit and healthy.
“Being alert to your body’s signals and regular medical checks allow you to react in time and avoid risks,” FIFA insists.
FIFA also advises players to always choose their diets wisely, adding that the food that a player chooses both in training and in competition affects how well they train and play.
In 2015, FIFA officials met in Zurich and passed several measures aimed at reducing cases of sudden cardiac deaths on the pitch. Among them was the agreement that medical examinations must be conducted prior to all FIFA competitions to identify players who are predisposed towards cardiac issues.
The meeting also stressed the need to make the FIFA Emergency Medical Bag, which includes an automated external defibrillator, standard equipment at all football matches.
FIFA is working closely with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to further ensure fair competition and safeguard the health of athletes.