"What the hell is going on?"
It's a question a friend and fellow football fan asked me on Saturday afternoon upon hearing that Piermario Morosini (25-years old), who was playing in a Serie B match that normally wouldn't have been mentioned a single time by 99.9 percent of American fans, collapsed on the pitch and eventually passed away. It's been only a few hours since we lost Morosini, but here's what we know for sure: No fewer than six such incidents have occurred in the past calendar year (three of those happened in the past month). Of those six players, Fabrice Muamba is the only one still with us.
Just what the hell is going on?
All reports that I've read on the subject claim that Morosini, like Muamba before him, suffered cardiac arrest in the first half of Saturday's game. Such reports on sports websites and Sky Sports TV have also stated that a vehicle was blocking the ambulance's way into the stadium. It's likely that we'll never know if the story would have ended differently had that vehicle been properly parked. What we do know, however, is that such stories are becoming far too common.
Cardiac testing is kinda/sorta already part of the football world. For example, the entire Tottenham Hotspur squad demanded exams days after the team watched in horror as Fabrice Muamba fought for his life at White Hart Lane. While it's great that those particular players were self-aware at that time, such tests shouldn't come because of player requests. I spoke with a football fan who is also a nurse during the week following the Muamba incident. She was convinced that routine check-ups could help catch these types of issues before they became life-threatening. As she explained it, the time and money spent on such exams would all be worthwhile if just one player was saved every decade.
Dave Martinez of the Empire of Soccer website brought up another good point in the hours following the death of Piermario Morosini. Unlike in European football leagues, a large bulk of the Major League Soccer season is played during the dead of summer. Even games played in New Jersey during July and August have taken place when it's over 100 degrees outdoors (last July is just one example). Over a dozen grown men running back and forth for over an hour in such conditions is, as Dave bluntly put it, a recipe for disaster.
As always happens in these scenarios, a plethora of individuals posting on social networking websites and sports forums immediately mentioned the possibility of drug use. We know nothing for sure regarding the condition of Morosini heading into Saturday's match, but I'd have no problem whatsoever if the events of the past several years brought with them additional drug testing. Any knowledgeable person I've spoken with regarding such events following Muamba's collapse are convinced of this one thing: We need way more cardiac testing in football, and we need it now.
The recovery of Fabrice Muamba is nothing short of miraculous. Sadly, a story such as his is one we don't often get to tell whenever a player falls to the ground as did Muamba and Morosini. The hope is that someday soon somebody will come up with some idea that prevents such events from occurring on a yearly basis. I hope that we don't have to wait too long for that day's arrival.
The football world is losing far too many guys far too soon.
For more reading: Footballer collapses on pitch, dies after treatment delay, Problem of heart defects in footballers continues to haunt Africa, Former Japan international Naoki Matsuda dies, aged 34, Nigerian player Bobsam Elejiko dies in Belgium