Danish footballer Christian Eriksen played for his national team against Tunisia today in his first major tournament since collapsing on the pitch 18 months ago.
In May 2021, he had suffered a cardiac arrest in the 42nd minute of Denmark’s first Euro Cup match against Finland in Copenhagen.
Describing the incident, Eriksen said that he “was gone from this world for five minutes.” He was revived and rushed to the hospital.
Despite what some believed to be a career-ending medical condition, the 30-year-old made a remarkable return to the Premier League with Brentford in February this year thanks to an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD).
The Manchester United midfielder is the first known senior footballer to be fitted with the matchbox-sized device, which is implanted in those believed to be at risk of cardiac arrest at some point in the future. .
It works by sending electrical shocks to the heart to get it to start pumping again, effectively restarting it when it fails.
Today, he started Denmark’s first World Cup game against Tunisia in Qatar. Manager Kasper Hjulmand described him as the “heartbeat of the team”.
Danish footballer Christian Eriksen played for his national team against Tunisia (pictured) today in his first major tournament since collapsing on the pitch 18 months ago.
In May 2021, he had suffered a cardiac arrest in the 42nd minute of Denmark’s first Euro match against Finland in Copenhagen (pictured)
ICDs work by sending electrical shocks to the heart to get it to start pumping again, effectively restarting it when it fails
While playing against Finland in the first half of the Euro 2021 opening game, Eriksen went into cardiac arrest.
This is when the heart stops beating completely due to a problem with the organ’s electrical signals, preventing blood from pumping throughout the body.
Victims will die within minutes unless treated with CPR.
His teammates called for help, and doctors gave Eriksen CPR and used an automated external defibrillator to restart his heart.
What is an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD)?
An ICD is a small device that can treat people with dangerously abnormal heart rhythms.
It sends electrical pulses to regulate abnormal heart rhythms, especially those that could be dangerous and cause cardiac arrest.
An ICD is placed under your skin, usually in the space just below your clavicle, to monitor your heart rate.
Thin wires connect the ICD to your heart, which constantly monitor your heart rate and rhythm.
People may need an ICD if they have had a life-threatening abnormal heart rhythm, are at risk of having one in the future, or have heart failure.
The device is placed in a procedure that takes one to three hours.
Font: British Heart Foundation
Eriksen was carried off the pitch on a stretcher and the match was temporarily suspended. About an hour later, officials confirmed that he was awake and stable and the game was restarted.
Eriksen has said that he has no family history of heart problems and had regular heart scans throughout his career. Everyone who plays for English Premier League and Football League clubs is tested when they sign their first contract and at ages 18 and 20.
But it was later confirmed that he had suffered cardiac arrest and had an ICD inserted out of concern that the condition would recur in the future.
ICDs, which are placed under the skin, can detect when the heart is beating in a potentially dangerous abnormal rhythm and deliver an electrical shock to the heart. This usually helps the heart to return to a normal rhythm.
Just a decade ago, doctors advised people with ICDs not to engage in strenuous exercise.
But US researchers conducted a study to get to the bottom of this advice. They monitored 440 athletes with ICDs for four years.
A tenth of the athletes had received a shock from their device while playing sports, suggesting they were near cardiac arrest, the results showed.
But none of the athletes suffered complications or died and none of the ICDs failed, suggesting that the risk of exercising is low for those with the devices.
However, Eriksen had to leave his former club, Inter Milan, because the Italian Football Association does not allow those equipped with the device to play in amateur or professional leagues.
Despite many expecting him to retire, he agreed to join Premier League club Brentford in January this year.
He then made his return to football in February, coming on in the 52nd minute in a game against Newcastle United, with his team trailing 2–0.
Eriksen then signed a three-year deal with Manchester United in July.
Cardiac arrests are slightly different from heart attacks, which occur when there is a sudden interruption in the blood supply to part of the heart.
Heart disease, inflammation of the heart, and an inherited heart condition are some of the leading causes of cardiac arrest.
While exercise is good for heart health, intense levels of physical activity can trigger cardiac arrest in athletes who unknowingly have underlying heart conditions.
Along with Eriksen, 34-year-old Fabrice Muamba collapsed when he went into cardiac arrest in March 2012 while playing for Bolton Wanderers and had no heartbeat for 78 minutes. He made a full recovery.
However, Marc-Vivienne Foe, who played for West Ham United and Cameroon, suffered a fatal cardiac arrest when his national team played Colombia in June 2003.