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Stump Edvard with your heart

As you know, heart health has been much in the news lately, particularly as it relates to football. Last month, Bolton’s Fabrice Muamba collapsed during an FA Cup match against Tottenham, and the club doctor has said that he was effectively dead for more than an hour. He is making progress in his recovery but will have a long road ahead of him before he can return to normal life.

And on Saturday, Livorno’s Piermario Morosini collapsed during a Serie B match against Pescara. But he was not so lucky – doctors could not restart his heart, and he died on the pitch.

In fact, a number of players have died during training or matches as a result of heart problems, including Samuel Okwaraji, Serginho, and Marc-Vivien Foé. Each tragedy is followed by calls for increased heart screening.

So what is to be done, then? We don’t know either, but we do have a guy who has experience at dangerous things: “Dynamite Eating” Edvard van de Kamp, the man whom we routinely throw in front of our readers to determine if he can be stumped. This time, of course, instead of being snarky and bitchy, he must actually treat this issue with the respect and gravity that it is owed.

Dear Edvard: What was the difference between Fabrice Muamba and Piermario Morosini? Muamba is recovering, but Morosini died instantly. Why did their cases turn out so different?

– Ketrin Forbes
Manchester, England, UK

Dear Ketrin: We may never know for sure. What was it about Muamba’s heart that meant doctors could restart it after it was stopped for 78 minutes? Why was Morosini already dead on arrival at hospital? Being able to answer those questions would help us treat these problems better.

Dear Edvard: Absolutely devastating what happened in Italy yesterday. I thought it was interesting that in Italy, all games this weekend were postponed. Was there something different about this case compared to Fabrice Muamba, seeing that the other games in England that weekend were not postponed? Besides the fact that Fabrice survived, of course.

– Clyde Hellensworth
Cornwall, England, UK

Dear Clyde: If Fabrice Muamba had not survived, it is safe to say that the other matches in England that weekend would have been off.

Dear Edvard: I read about the tragedy involving the Italian soccer player Piermario Morosini, and I read that there was a police car blocking the ambulance at the stadium in Pescara, and they had to break into it before the ambulance could travel to the hospital. How could something like that happen? It’s an outrage.

– Peter del Toro
Harrison, NJ, USA

Dear Peter: It is indeed an outrage. An inquiry into the subject has already been opened.

The larger question, of course, pertains to the medical assistance provided at the scene. It is known that in cases like this, quick medical attention can mean the difference between life and death. Even if Morosini could not have been saved in those extra few minutes, as the doctors who were there have suggested, we owe it to the next player to be able to treat him as quickly as possible.

Dear Edvard: Fabrice Muamba is still in hospital after his heart attack last month. Will he ever be able to play again?

– Josephine Bush
Nice, France

Dear Josephine: Maybe. I believe it would be an unprecedented return – I don’t know of any players who were able to resume their playing career after having a cardiac arrest on the pitch.

Dear Edvard: It was such a shock to hear about what happened to Piermario Morosini, but it was even more heartbreaking to read his obituary. Both of his parents died while he was a teenager, leaving him with a brother and sister who are both disabled. And then his brother committed suicide. But through it all, he was still an optimistic person. What is it about some people that keeps them upbeat in the worst times?

– Joan-Ellen Bergson
Salt Lake City, UT, USA

Dear Joan-Ellen: Shit if I know.

Dear Edvard: While reading about today’s tragedy in Italian soccer, I saw that there was a cardiologist in the crowd who rushed down to the field to help the treatment. The same thing happened when the English player collapsed last month. Shouldn’t there be cardiologists assigned to games so that we don’t have to depend on the luck of whether there is one in attendance?

– Joe Pallenstein
Longtown, MA, USA

Dear Joe: That is one of the proposals being put forward. There are also suggestions that defibrillators should be available at every match.

Dear Edvard: It was shocking to hear about Piermario Morosini, especially because Italy has long had stringent heart testing for footballers. Will that screening have to be increased now?

– Ed Carrberg
Greenwich, England, UK

Dear Ed: Maybe. The screening that is done in Italy may not be enough. There may be room for improvement – but do we know what exactly needs to be improved? The autopsy may tell us something important about Morosini’s heart and why it failed. That might in turn tell us what else we need to be screening for.

But in any case, screening will never be perfect; it can help reduce the risk of heart problems, not eliminate it.

Dear Edvard: There have been a lot of questions about Piermario Morosini’s case: why this happened in the first place, whether the heart screenings should have caught it, why the ambulance was blocked in. Are there going to be any good answers?

– Luca Polotelli
Rome, Italy

Dear Luca: There will be answers. But they will be probabilistic answers: doing X differently would have increased his chances of survival by Y percent. If you are waiting for a magic bullet that will solve all heart problems in football, you must continue waiting.