Following the incident involving former Gunner Fabrice Muamba, the club’s doctor, Gary O’Driscoll has revealed that Arsenal’s players undergo extremely rigorous screening to try and identify any potential issues.
These tests take place annually, usually in pre-season, and often just after a new player joins the club. Speaking to Saturday’s match-day programme, he outlined the screening procedures.
“A full screen includes multiple aspects including a full medical examination, past medical history, past family history and an ECG (Electrocardiogram) which looks at electrical conduction around the heart.
“Electrodes are placed on the players chest and and connect to an ECG machine whilst he lies still. When then repeat the test with the players while they’re pushed to their physical limit on a bike or treadmill, to measure the activity of the heart but this time while it’s working to near maximum capacity.
The club then carries out an Echocardiogram, which examines the structure of the heart, and the results are then studied by sports cardiologists.
Although the sports governing bodies suggest these tests should be carried out every two years, the club ensure that all the players, from first team to academy, undergo them every single year.
However, as what happened with Muamba showed, screening does not always show problems, and the response to an incident when it happens can be the difference between life and death.
“What is critical is the the immediate response and aftercare afforded to the player,’ he said. “The level of training for all pitchside doctors and physiotherapists is extremely high and we all attend annual courses in Advanced Life Support in order to develop our high level of expertise in these situations.
“At Arsenal, alongside our highly trained staff, we have Cardiac defibrillators, Oxygen and Airways available at all times at Emirates Stadium and London Colney.
“While research will continue in depth to try and prevent any cardiac arrests it may be that very occasionally these events will still happen.
“It remains critical that we are prepared to deal with the immediate management of such an incident as the medical teams so clearly were [for Fabrice Muamba].”
This article appears in the Matchday Programme March 24th – and for more information about Cardiac Risk in the Young visit CRY.