The shocking events of Denmark international Christian Eriksen suffering a cardiac arrest at Euro 2020 have led to increased efforts to promote CPR and make life-saving equipment available in more places.
Eriksen, 29, was playing in Denmark’s opening group stage match of the European Championships against Finland on 12 June 2021. In the 42nd minute of the match, Eriksen collapsed – CPR and defibrillation were performed on the pitch at Copenhagen’s Parken Stadium before Eriksen was taken off the pitch on a stretcher.
Eriksen had suffered a cardiac arrest – an event when your heart suddenly stops pumping blood around your body. What happened to Eriksen is rare, but not unheard of. In March 2012, Fabrice Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest while playing for Bolton Wanderers in a televised FA Cup game against Tottenham Hotspur. Some people are more likely to suffer a cardiac arrest than others – but it could happen to anyone.
The shocking events happened in front of a stadium crowd, and Eriksen’s collapse was broadcast on TV around the world. The distressing scenes have since put the provision of defibrillators, and education about life-saving first aid into focus, and have acted as a reminder that more can be done to save more lives inside and outside of sport.
While Eriksen’s life was saved, the lives of many who suffer a cardiac arrest are tragically lost.
In Scotland, the survival rate for someone suffering an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is just 10.2%. In England, that figure is even lower at 9.4%, and Wales’ figure is less than half of that at just 4.6%. Elsewhere, countries including the Netherlands and Norway have survival rates for out-of-hospital cardiac arrests at over 20%.
Research commissioned by the British Heart Foundation in 2018 suggested that nearly a third of UK adults are not likely to perform CPR if they saw someone suffer a cardiac arrest. Many people are not educated in performing CPR, and many are not aware of the importance of defibrillators.
In the weeks since Eriksen’s cardiac arrest, a number of programmes have been announced to help improve survival rates and improve education on life-saving equipment and practices.
The Premier League has said that defibrillators must be more ‘widely available’ and is to work with the FA and Football Foundation to fund more defibrillators, with plans to reach over 2,000 grassroots facilities – with an estimated 1,000 defibrillators to be delivered ahead of the upcoming 2021-22 season.
A number of other organisations have also funded new automated external defibrillators (AEDs) for sports clubs and their communities, including Manchester City Football Club and its charity which is donating 26 AEDs to neighbouring clubs around the Etihad Stadium.
It has been widely reported that sales of defibrillators have risen sharply over recent weeks, and a number of communities and local media have also launched awareness campaigns to make people aware of the location of the devices. Nationally, there is currently no central database in the UK to know where every defibrillator is, which can mean vital quick action is often not performed in an emergency. The British Heart Foundation has a network called ‘The Circuit’ on which defibrillators can be registered, though it is thought that many thousands of the devices are still not registered.
In Wales, where the survival rate for out-of-hospital cardiac arrests is one of the lowest in Europe, a new investment of almost £2.5m has been pledged to help improve survival rates. The funding from the Welsh Government will help Save a Life Cymru to raise awareness about the cardiac arrest chain of survival and improve public access to defibrillators.
Professor Len Nokes, the Chair of the SALC Partnership welcomed the new funding, saying;
“As we have recently seen at Euro 2020, anyone can have a cardiac arrest. Christian Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch and he owes his life to his teammates and the medical team who performed CPR and used a defibrillator to save his life.
“Not everyone will have a medical team close at hand when they have a cardiac arrest and therefore our aim at Save a Life Cymru is to inspire everyone in Wales to learn CPR and defibrillation skills to help save more lives.”
“This Welsh Government funding will help us to work with communities across Wales. Lives can be saved, but we need people that are willing and able to help.”
The events seen at the start of Euro 2020 in Copenhagen were distressing to many. With the event happening so publicly, it has prompted many people to search for resources on how to perform CPR and how to act if someone suffers a cardiac arrest. Many free resources, including those explaining how to perform CPR are available online, including from the British Heart Foundation.