KUALA LUMPUR: English league professional footballer Fabrice Muamba was a fit 23-year-old athlete when he suddenly collapsed on the field in the middle of a televised match in March 2012.

Muamba’s heart stopped for 78 minutes before it was revived.

Thanks to the medical team’s fast action and a cardiologist who luckily happened to be on-site, Muamba was literally brought back to life.

Although he had to retire from professional football after the incident, nonetheless, his health recovered and he managed to live a normal life.

He now coaches youth football clubs and is married with two sons, and he had also joined a British dance show on television.

Sudden death in the field

What happened to Muamba was sudden cardiac arrest due to onset of rapid, erratic electrical rhythm in the heart, from an underlying pre-existing cardiac condition.Such a condition can cause the heart to quiver uselessly, and rapidly lead to a flat line or death.

Sunway Medical Centre interventional consultant cardiologist Datuk Dr Yap Yee Guan said the general public often equates sudden cardiac death to a heart attack but the two are actually not the same.

He said a heart attack occurs when the blood flow to the heart suddenly reduces due to an occluded coronary artery from ruptured plaque.

Sudden cardiac arrest, on the other hand, is due to a sudden onset of rapid erratic electrical rhythm in the heart.

“Sudden cardiac arrest could hit both non-athletes and athletes, but in cases of young athletes, it is mostly due to a genetic condition.

“The majority of sudden cardiac death events in young athletes is due to ventricular arrhythmias (heart beats abnormally) usually sustained from ventricular tachycardia (heart beats very fast) or ventricular fibrillation (heart beats erratically and rapidly),” he explained.

According to the findings of research carried out in the United States, 80 percent of sudden death cases involving older athletes, namely 35 years old and above, were due to coronary artery diseases, while younger athletes who died of the same cause had inherited heart diseases.

Thickened heart

Dr Yap said most of the young athletes who died of sudden cardiac arrest carried the gene for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), a disease in which the heart muscle or myocardium becomes abnormally thick.

“The thickened heart muscle can make it harder for the heart to pump blood.

The heart works harder.

People with this condition have to be banned from playing any sport. — The Borneo Post