Reducing the number of heart attack deaths at major sporting venues

June 13, 2011, European Society of Cardiology

The number of heart attack deaths at Europe's sporting venues is set to significantly reduce if recommendations published today are widely adopted. In a special article published online today by the European Heart Journal (EHJ), minimum standards of cardiovascular medical expertise, available equipment, and emergency planning are defined for stadiums and mass participation events, including marathons and cycle sportives. The recommendations have been developed in response to a 2010 review of cardiovascular safety at 190 major soccer arenas. This review determined that, without appropriate measures, there could be one death every five to ten matches at a typical 50,000-seater arena.

"I am confident that implementing the recommendations will prevent many unnecessary deaths", said European Society of Cardiology (ESC) spokesperson, Professor Mats Borjesson of Sahlgrenska University in Gothenburg. "It is well known that rapid access to the right treatment facilities can improve Sudden Carciac Arrest (SCA) from 5% to well over 60%. We hope to see real progress in this area and take the debate to national and regional governments as well as stadium and event managers."

SCA is a condition in which normal blood circulation abruptly stops and usually leads to death in 95% of cases unless the patient is treated within five minutes or so by trained medical staff using a defibrillator. One study found that the risk of SCA at a major stadium could be as high as 1 in 260,000, while another puts the figure closer to 1 in 600,000. The 2010 review highlighted that major soccer stadiums were poorly prepared to deal with incidents of SCA – despite the risk factors being higher than normal due to the effects of physical exertion amongst the players, and a mix of high emotional stress, alcohol consumption and poor general fitness in spectators, particularly those that are middle-aged and older.

The EHJ article summarises work undertaken by the Sports Cardiology Section of the European Association of Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation (EACPR), a branch of the ESC. The key conclusion in the article 'Consensus document regarding cardiovascular safety at sports arenas' is that every stadium with a 1,000+ capacity and every mass participation event with more than 1,000 competitors should have a detailed Medical Action Plan (MAP). The plan must address such aspects as:

  • Appointment of a qualified, experienced Medical Director
  • Transportation plan to nearest hospital, local maps and evacuation routes
  • Specialist equipment available and its location
  • Communications and collaboration with emergency care systems
  • Treatment facilities available and level of care provided
  • Training and quality improvement
"It is important that the MAP is not just prepared and then filed away", says Professor Borjesson. "It needs to be maintained, accessible to all stadium or event , and then reviewed and updated as appropriate every year. This is why the Medical Director has such a vital role and, ideally, will be a locally licensed physician familiar with the area and its specific requirements."

Doctor Pantaleo Giannuzzi is the EACPR President, and strongly welcomes the recommendations. "For the first time, we have the possibility of minimum standards of cardiovascular safety at major sporting events", he notes. "Both competitors and spectators are exposed to greater risk than the general population although for different reasons. Spectators especially face a potent cocktail of dangerous factors, and I believe that the recommendations of the EACPR's Sports Cardiology section will make a positive contribution to saving many lives."

More information: European Heart Journal, doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehr178

Related Stories

Recommended for you

A nanoparticle inhalant for treating heart disease

January 18, 2018
A team of researchers from Italy and Germany has developed a nanoparticle inhalant for treating people suffering from heart disease. In their paper published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the group describes ...

Starting periods before age of 12 linked to heightened risk of heart disease and stroke

January 15, 2018
Starting periods early—before the age of 12—is linked to a heightened risk of heart disease and stroke in later life, suggests an analysis of data from the UK Biobank study, published online in the journal Heart.

'Decorated' stem cells could offer targeted heart repair

January 10, 2018
Although cardiac stem cell therapy is a promising treatment for heart attack patients, directing the cells to the site of an injury - and getting them to stay there - remains challenging. In a new pilot study using an animal ...

Two simple tests could help to pinpoint cause of stroke

January 10, 2018
Detecting the cause of the deadliest form of stroke could be improved by a simple blood test added alongside a routine brain scan, research suggests.

Exercise is good for the heart, high blood pressure is bad—researchers find out why

January 10, 2018
When the heart is put under stress during exercise, it is considered healthy. Yet stress due to high blood pressure is bad for the heart. Why? And is this always the case? Researchers of the German Centre for Cardiovascular ...

Heart-muscle patches made with human cells improve heart attack recovery

January 10, 2018
Large, human cardiac-muscle patches created in the lab have been tested, for the first time, on large animals in a heart attack model. This clinically relevant approach showed that the patches significantly improved recovery ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.