Men's health * Healthy living

"Heart attack risk" at football grounds

watching football can be bad for your heart Not enough venues have plans or equipment to deal with emergencies

Last minute goal action at Old Trafford might be described as "heart stopping" but a new study suggests that many of Europe's top stadiums would struggle to help a fan having a heart attack.

Heart attacks are a leading cause of death, but with early intervention they are survivable. Using a defibrillator to shock the heart back into a steady rhythm can be a major factor in saving the patient's life, especially if applied in the critical 3-5 minutes after the attack.

Having portable defibrillators available in crowded public areas such as airports has been shown to save lives. The study therefore looked at the availability of such equipment in leading European football grounds. The existence of a plan of action to deal with a fan's heart attack was also reviewed.

Over a quarter of the 187 stadiums responding to the study did not have defibrillators, and only just over 60% had emergency plans in place.

As football is the best resourced sport in Europe, it is likely that in other sports venues the provisions will be even worse.

One of the authors of the study, Mats Borjesson, commented: "Our study shows that many of these sports arenas are not adequately prepared to deal effectively with heart attacks among the spectators. We believe that formal recommendations are needed urgently to improve safety for spectators and players. At the highest levels of sport, recommendations should be mandatory."

Other studies have shown that fans who are emotionally involved in the outcome of a football game are more likely to suffer a heart attack, especially if middle aged or older. Many of the grounds in the study are more than the 5 minutes critical threshold from a medical facility, so the availability of emergency equipment in these cases is vital.

Although the study did not name the grounds involved, it covered all the leading football countries including England, France and Spain.

But in the case of the English Premier League, provision of emergency equipment is generally good- as was pointed out by Ellen Mason Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation:

"Early access to a defibrillator – AED - increases the chance of survival during cardiac arrest, so it's reassuring to know that so many stadiums in England had a AED. Most UK clubs use the St John's Ambulance to provide first aid cover who have AEDs funded by the BHF. Some defibrillator manufacturers have also donated AEDs to clubs in Premiership and other divisions."

"The BHF has led the way in supporting the placement of AEDs in public places, so far we have helped to make 9,000 available across the country" she added.

The study appears in the European Heart Journal.

This article was published on Wed 3 March 2010

Image © Pavel Losevsky -

Related Stories

Use this story

Heart attack
Link to this page
Printer friendly version

Share this page