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Sky Sports' Johnny Phillips: When football really is a matter of life or death

The most important story of the season was told this week by Wigan Athletic striker Charlie Wyke.

Charlton Athletic's Ryan Inniss (left) and Wigan Athletic's Charlie Wyke
Charlton Athletic's Ryan Inniss (left) and Wigan Athletic's Charlie Wyke

The 28-year old went public with the details of his cardiac arrest and subsequent recovery in a bid to educate as many people as possible about the importance of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Wyke collapsed while training a week last Monday ahead of the club’s match away at Cambridge United.

The forward was immediately stabilised by manager Leam Richardson and Wigan’s club doctor Jonathan Tobin.

He then received further treatment from medical staff, before being taken to the Royal Albert Edward Infirmary in Wigan. He was later transferred to the Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital.

The Latics have been in constant contact with Wyke since his collapse and the striker has issued an update on his condition.

“I feel it’s important to tell my story to our supporters and to the wider public,” he revealed. “My life has been saved by the actions of the gaffer and the club doctor Jonathan Tobin, and my story may well save another life.

“I suffered a cardiac arrest and required CPR, and I am told it was only the quick response of the gaffer to initiate the resuscitation process and then the continuation from the Doc that saved my life.

“I will be forever grateful that due to their actions, and those of my team-mates and other staff, I am here to talk to about the experience.

“Thankfully, just a few weeks ago, the training ground staff had received CPR training, which has clearly proven to be life-saving with the way in which the gaffer reacted to my collapse and initiated the CPR on the training pitch.

“I think that sends out a message of just how important it is that coaches and staff have that training.”

That same week as Wyke’s trauma, I covered Sheffield United’s victory at Reading in the Championship.

The match was halted for over 10 minutes when Blades midfielder John Fleck collapsed on the pitch and suffered a seizure.

It was frightening to witness but I was immediately struck by the quick reactions of so many people who came to the player’s aid.

Initially, team-mate Chris Basham alerted the referee, Andy Davies, to the problem and then helped keep Fleck on his side.

Davies stopped the game as soon as he was made aware of the issue and medical staff from both clubs went on to the pitch to treat Fleck.

The player was able to briefly get to his feet, with the help of an oxygen mask, but was then put on a stretcher and taken to the Royal Berkshire Hospital, before being discharged the following day.

There have been a number of high-profile incidents in this past year which highlight the importance of proper medical training.

Those involved in youth and amateur football can learn so much from the actions of Richardson and others in the professional game, who knew how to react to the unfolding events.

During the European Championships in the summer, Christian Eriksen collapsed during Denmark’s match against Finland. Danish defender Simon Kjær was one of the first to understand the situation’s severity.

Kjær rushed to Eriksen and put him on his side, ensuring Eriksen’s airway remained open.

Kjær was later praised by the team doctors for having played a vital part in saving Eriksen’s life.

Crucially, a defibrillator was produced quickly and together with the CPR it revived the stricken player.

Since recovering from the incident it has been announced that the 29-year-old cannot play again for his club side, Inter Milan, because his implantable cardioverter defibrillator prevents him from returning to Serie A.

Instead, he has returned to training with his former club, Odense, in a bid to return to professional football outside Italy.

In October, Barcelona striker Sergio Aguero was substituted in the first half of his side’s 1-1 draw with Alaves at the Nou Camp.

Aguero appeared to be suffering from breathing difficulties and the referee quickly alerted the Barca bench, signalling for medics to enter the field, with the player eventually being able to walk off the pitch.

This week, Aguero took to social media to rebuke reports that he may have to retire from the game.

It shouldn’t take high profile examples like these to bring the importance of CPR to the forefront of people’s minds, but if it means one more person learns how to administer CPR then that can only be a good thing.

So many of us enjoy playing or watching football at all levels of the pyramid and below.

There is always a chance that we will need to react to a situation like the one Wyke suffered this week.

CPR is so important because the longer there is a time delay, the higher the chance that the heart muscle will never recover.

With every minute that passes, the chances of an individual surviving go down by between seven and 10 per cent.

It is of paramount importance to keep the heart beating during these crucial moments and get the heart started as quickly as possible.

And that is not just so that the cardiac outcome will be good, but also that the other organs remain well supported with blood and oxygen, improving the chances of a full recovery.

Wyke was saved by the quick-thinking of his manager and medical staff.

The lesson is there for us all.

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