RTK Blog:Rocky Rocastle and Fabrice Muamba what lessons can we learn?

 
Today the 31st of March marks the 11th anniversary of the great man’s passing and it’s nice to see our official site not make the mistake of two or three seasons ago when no mention was made.
David “Rocky” Rocastle was an Arsenal legend and if you are new to Arsenal and want to know more, then a fitting tribute is available on the Arsenal USA site where as part of the Arsenal 125th anniversary, Rocky Rocastle is featured.
Having taken my new “nic” as RTK or Rocky the King, from having been previously FTK, I could not have let this day pass without writing a blog. Something that I have not done for several months because of illness. I am on the mend and hope to be back in the frame sometime in June, but there is one thing that illness teaches you, and that is how to really value good health. Let me tell you, money cannot buy or guarantee good health, and I urge all of you to make the most of every hour of every day of good health that life gives you, because it is only when you lose it, do you realise how much we take good health for granted…
Recent events in the health of footballers have demonstrated this powerful fact.
Fabrice Muamba’s collapse at White Hart Lane followed by 78 minutes of effectively being dead, was the most notable, and the recent declaration that Aston Villa’s captain Stiliyan Petrov is suffering from Acute Leukaemia is another sad piece of news. My best wishes go out to the players and their families during these most difficult of times, when the tribalism of football means absolutely nothing.
Tragedy can occur with the supporters too, in 1971 there were the deaths of 66 Rangers fans , and then of course going back to April 1989 there was the Hillsborough disaster that claimed the lives of 96 fans. All victims of circumstances, which makes one question the existence of a deity or fairness and justice. I am sure that we could all list and name at least 96 other evil people in this world that we would rather have seen suffer in place of these innocents…
Moving onto a lighter note, when I did the 7th anniversary blog for Rocky, I included some medical advice to fans about looking for the signs of Lymphoma, a cancer of the bone marrow and white blood cells and glands. Today I shall cover some of the key points relating to Sudden Cardiac death syndrome which affects young sportsmen, and whilst I have no evidence to suggest that Fabrice suffered from this condition, there are some striking similarities that people need to be aware of.
So what is Sudden cardiac death syndrome? (SCD)
This is a usually fatal syndrome unless you are lucky enough to have the high risk features spotted by screening. It is a syndrome that no-one really knows how common it is, it could affect one in 28,000 young people up to one in 100,00, that translates to 12 young people dying every week in the UK, a staggering statistic. The commonest sports affected are football and basketball, the ages affected are from 14-35yrs and males are nine times more likely to suffer from this syndrome than females, and black sportsmen more than white.
Who can we identify it?
There is good evidence that a simple recording of the heart’s electrical activity using an ECG combined with documentation of key health questions indicating the possibility of heart disease in the near family and subjective personal symptoms will enable a large number of these cases to be discovered. A study in Italy of PPS or PreParticipation cardiovascular Screening, which adopted the universal approach of screening ALL young people who wished to take part in high intensity competitive sports reduced the events of SCD from 3.4 per 100,000 young people to 0.4 per 100,000, a saving of hundreds of young lives each year. Pretty amazing if you are one of those identified.
Some of the difficulties encountered which cause confusion relate to the ECG changes which occur as a direct consequence of the physical training effects upon heart muscle and sometimes these changes are seen as a normal variation in black people, so it is important to have a cardiological expert interpret the ECG.
What causes it?
There again is good evidence that the majority of SCD is due to abnormalities in the heart muscle or the way in which the electrical stimulation of the heart muscle is applied in those affected individuals. For some unexplained reason the abnormal and sometimes greatly enlarged heart muscle goes into cardiac arrest where the electrical messages sent to maintain the metronome beating of the heart becomes disordered and the heart just stops and quivers.
The electrical state of the heart needs to be reset by discharging a pulse of electricity or D.C (direct current) cardioversion using a defribrillator applied to the chest wall. This is the device that paramedics use to restart many heart attacks where the essential integrity of the heart’s  anatomy is not damaged by either trauma or other serious disease.
A condition called HOCM or Hypertrophic Obstructive CardioMyopathy accounts for the majority of deaths (40-50%) from SCD with another condition ARVC or Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy and other rarer cardiac muscle diseases causes accounting for the rest.
What can we do to spot it?
In Italy as direct result of the PPS study, all sportsmen are required to have a Fitness Certificate and here in the UK the Premier League organises screening ECGs twice a year for young footballers. If you are a young sportsperson then the following article is a must read, and if you are concerned then go and ask your GP or physician for an ECG.
If it happens near me what do I do?
Given the publicity about Fabrice Muamba’s collapse, then knowing how to do CPR is also helpful, until a defibrillator and paramedics arrive at the scene. First get someone to call an ambulance, then get someone trained in first aid to the side of the victim. Maintaining a clear passage of air to the lungs and keeping that young person’s heart pumping some blood around the body using CPR is key. Remember that even when there appears to be no signs of life, keep this basic life support going as it alone will increase the chances of saving that life when help comes in the shape of Ambulance personnel.
I know this last observation to be true, for around eight or nine seasons ago I personally  used CPR at Highbury to save the life of an elderly Gooner who collapsed during a European Fixture in the West Stand at Highbury. His heart had stopped and by applying forceful compressions to the lower third of his breast bone combined then with mouth to mouth ventilations kept him “alive” until the paramedics and the defibrillator arrived. It was a pleasure to shake that Gooner’s hand at the end of that season in what for me was a very emotional event.
OK, so here ends my annual tribute to David “Rocky” Rocastle, and lets hope that from it some more young lives can be saved.
Take care all.

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