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Christian Eriksen collapsed on the pitch after cardiac arrest – the condition explained

Back in May 2021, the Danish football player suffered from a life-threatening cardiac arrest while on the pitch. It was the 42nd minute of Denmark’s first game of the European Championship against Finland in Copenhagen. Quickly taken away on a stretcher, the match was suspended, and fans later learned of Eriksen’s cardiac arrest.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) explained: “A cardiac arrest is when your heart suddenly stops pumping blood around your body.

“When your heart stops pumping blood, your brain is starved of oxygen. This causes you to fall unconscious and stop breathing.”

The BHF cautioned: “Without immediate treatment or medical attention, the person will die.”

Recalling the life-or-death experience, Eriksen said he was “gone from this world for five minutes”.

Symptoms of a cardiac arrest

Collapsing, suddenly, and:

  • being unconscious
  • being unresponsive and 
  • won’t be breathing or breathing normally – not breathing normally may mean they’re making gasping noises.

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One of the most common causes of a cardiac arrest, according to the BHF, is having an abnormal heart rhythm called ventricular fibrillation (VF).

“VF happens when the electrical activity of the heart becomes so chaotic that the heart stops pumping, Instead, it quivers or fibrillates,” the BHF notes.

Eriksen has since had an implantable cardioverter defibrillator inserted (ICD).

The BHF elaborates: “An ICD is a small device [placed under the skin] which can treat people with dangerously abnormal heart rhythms.

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“It sends electrical pulses to regulate abnormal heart rhythms, especially those that could be dangerous and cause a cardiac arrest.”

An ICD is usually placed “just below the collar bone” so that it can monitor the heart rate.

“Thin wires connect the ICD to the heart, where it’s always checking your heart rate and rhythm,” the BHF adds.

This way, if a dangerous heart rhythm is picked up on, the ICD can kick in.

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The BHF notes: “If an ICD notices a dangerous heart rhythm it can deliver one or more of the following treatments:

Pacing – a series of low-voltage electrical impulses (paced beats) at a fast rate to try and correct the heart rhythm.

Cardioversion – one or more small electric shocks to try and restore the heart to a normal rhythm.

Defibrillation – one or more larger electric shocks to try and restore the heart to a normal rhythm.”

As the Italian Football Association does not allow players with an ICD to play in professional leagues, Eriksen moved from his former club Inter Milan to Brentford.

He then made his return to football in February, coming on in the 52nd minute in a game against Newcastle United.

Eriksen was then signed in a three-year deal with Manchester United in July.

For more information on cardiac arrests and implantable cardioverter defibrillators, visit bhf.org.uk.

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