The Israeli Real-Time News Tuesday reported a 5-fold increase in sudden cardiac and unexplained deaths among FIFA players in 2021.
Since December, 183 professional athletes and coaches have suddenly collapsed, with 108 dead.
A Real-Time News investigation revealed that most of the athletes were males, with only 15 females, and the vast majority being 17-40 years of age. Only 21 are older (5 aged 42-45, six aged 46-49, 7 aged 51-54, and 3 others aged 60-64). 23 were teenagers, aged 12-17, of whom 16 died.
The investigation revealed in over 80 of the cases, such as football stars Sergio Aguero and Christian Eriksen, the athletes collapsed while playing, racing, or training, or immediately after. Scientific literature calls the phenomenon of athletes collapsing for reasons unrelated to injury rare.
In most cases, the cause of the collapse was heart-related, including myocarditis, pericarditis, heart attacks, or cardiac arrest, with the second most prevalent cause being clotting events.
Real-Time News emphasized that: “the list we have is even longer, but for the sake of caution, dozens of cases were removed, for which we did not have full details, so that only cases that were reported in detail were included.”
They continued: “in addition, cases were removed in which evidence of previous risk factors was mentioned, such as cardiac disease or diabetes.
To get a better picture of the data compared to previous years, Real-Time News only looked at data relating to deaths among athletes registered with FIFA, and compared the data regarding the number of sudden cardiac death (SCD)/sudden unexplained death (SUD) among athletes in previous years, to the number of cases in 2021.
To find out how many deaths actually occurred during the last two decades among FIFA players (2001-2020), they used Wikipedia – “List of association footballers who died while playing”. To know how many cases occurred in 2021, they used the list collected by Real-Time News that includes the cases noted in Wikipedia for 2021.
Hebrew University Institute of Criminology Department of Sociology and Anthropology senior lecturer Dr. Josh Guetzkow analyzed the data and told Real-Time News: “An article published in the British Medical Journal shows that the risk of SCD is one in 50,000, with a range from one in 30,000 to one in 80,000.” He continued: “According to FIFA data, in 2000 there were 242,000 athletes registered in the association, and in 2006 there were 265,000 athletes registered. Assuming FIFA has not changed significantly in twenty years, we can expect about 5 deaths a year.”
According to Wikipedia, under “List of association footballers who died while playing”, in 2001-2020 there was an average of 4.2 deaths per year attributed to SCD or SUD, the vast majority being SCD. In contrast, in 2021, according to Real-Time News‘ list, there were 21 cases of SCD/SUD among FIFA players. In other words, instead of 4 SCD/SUD deaths per year (according to Wikipedia data), or 5 cases per year (calculated according to the BMJ) during 2001-2020, 21 players have died so far this year.
The list of 183 athletes who collapsed and/or died since December 2020 can be viewed here (Hebrew).
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