Another footballing tragedy

Bruno Baião, aged 18, captain of the junior Benfica football team, was fighting for his life last week in the intensive care unit of Curry Cabral Hospital in Lisbon. He suffered a myocardial attack after a training session in Olivais. Doctors would not commit themselves about his chances of recovery, saying only that the next few days would be critical. “The vessels that connect to his heart are unblocked, free and functioning. Unfortunately, we must be cautious because a cardio-respiratory stoppage always has unpredictable consequences,” said Pedro Canas Mendes, director of the hospital.

The player, who has suffered cardiac problems in the past, was with his teammates in a café near to Campo Branca Lucas when he received a call from businessman Paulo Barbosa, informing him that Benfica wished to renew their contract with him. “I was trying to tell him the news that his contract had been extended when the line suddenly went dead,” said Barbosa.

Fabio Ferraz, a fellow player, was the first to tend to Baião. After about 25 minutes (a length of time which has given rise to complaints), during which cardiac massage was applied, an ambulance took him to hospital. Baião had suffered from cardiac problems in 2001 and had to stop playing for Benfica for nine months. The player underwent a series of examinations in Santa Maria Hospital and then returned to playing football.

There has been a catalogue of heart-related incidents involving footballers recently. The most prominent case earlier this year was that of Hungarian forward Miklos Fehér. Post-mortem tests carried out on the player indicated that he died owing to a heart defect that had gone undiagnosed during medical examinations. On January 27, an official at Madeira’s national team died, the victim of a sudden illness after a game of football between friends. Then a 14-year-old boy died on February 1 in Viseu when he was playing football with friends. Tiago Almeida left the game, sat down by a wall and then fell lifeless to the ground. On March 3, a 36-year-old man died when he was playing football with friends in Braga. Domingos Ferreira da Costa felt unwell, sat on the ground and eventually collapsed. On April 9, a young boy of 12, Afonso Santos, suffered cardiac failure during a game of football between friends in Seia.

A medical expert told The Resident that there are various reasons for these incidents: “They may have had a congenital heart valve problem and then when they go up to maximum heart rate the whole system breaks down. Or, alternatively, they may have myocarditis – a flu-like illness or virus.”

As far as older, seemingly fit individuals are concerned, our expert says: “Not everyone who has a heart attack has warning signs. But, then again, people frequently have had warnings and sometimes keep them secret.”