The Case Of Christian Eriksen: How Safe Are Ugandan Sportsmen?

Henry Kisekka receive medical treatment at Namboole. Monitor photo

Uganda joined the rest of the world on social media to rally their support to Denmark midfielder Christian Eriksen who collapsed and cheated death on Saturday when Denmark took on Finland in a European Championship game. The former Tottenham Hotspur player was saved thanks to an immediate intervation of teammate Simon Kjaer, a steadfast emergency medical treatment and divine intervention.

Where as the incident was further miles away in Copenhagen from Uganda, Similar scenarios have been a common fixture across most disciplines locally especially in contact sport. Although Some haven’t been cardiac arrests like it was for Eriksen but it was a rude reminder of how we should prioritize medical department in the Sports industry.

Lweza FC striker Frank ‘Majja’ Lutalo died in similar incidents in 2014 after a head collision in training as it was the case with Happy Boys Kyengera FC’s Farouk Ssekimwanyi who also died after he collapsed in training .
The sport of rugby hasn’t been spared either. In 2013, Nile player Yusuf ‘Baban’ Zaidi died during a game against Buffaloes at Dam Waters. And many other ugly incidents have gone unreported.

“We have ambulances at every game which must have stretchers, with trained medical staff among other requirements. And we instructed all our referees to not start a game before all that is in place,” says Uganda Premier League Manager Paul Kabaikaramu.

In 2017, then URA FC player Henry Kisekka was whisked away in a mini van to Life Link in Kyaliwajja after he collapsed following a duel with Joseph Othieno in a league game at Namboole against UPDF.

There was also no ambulance in place at Wankulukuku in 2017 when Express Nigerian defender Vicenet Onyebuchi broke his leg. He was rushed to hospital by in a Toyota Prado!

For Eriksen’s case, current Express FC team doctor Musa Kinaabi says that players can be saved if all the requirements are in place and adds that players must be screened for possible heart conditions.

He states: “Every team must do pre season medical checkups to ensure that there are no Cardiac problems. One of the problems we have in Uganda is that sports does not give the medical department the respect it deserves. Clubs even do not differentiate between a team doctor and a physiotherapist, and they just employ someone who can work as or can fit in their budget.”

“In Uganda we take medical tests as something light. I can give you an example of a year back when I was involved in an incident with Express coach then George Ssimwogerere. The club new signing Ramathan Magezi failed the medical yet he was already given half of sign-on fee.”

Kyeyune Aloysius, a team physician at Busoga United adds: “FIFA has a program of PCMA (Precompetition Medical Assessment) that all clubs should do it. It involves check up of all body systems but the most challenging thing is that few of our clubs can aford this. There are also a few facilities with the required equipements and the few with these the tests are too expensive so with this we do believe that if its done at the start of the season we can handle. Even when you as the team doctor have the knowledge on what to do and save a life, at times the equipements are not there.”

Just like Football, a Rugby Premiership game cannot start without an ambulance in place. Dr. Joseph Kalanzi heads the Uganda Rugby Medical Society and was recently appointed to the World Rugby Committee on Player Medical Welfare early this year.

On safety, he explains: “Uganda Rugby Union follows the guidelines from World Rugby to ensure that all personnel that are there at games are trained. We train all our personnel on advanced life support. The games are not allowed to start without a trained medical person on the field as well as an ambulance. All our medics are well trained and are certified by World Rugby to offer life support care.

“Each club has a medical person, their medical person evaluates their players and before the season we do what we call a preseason screening done by the club medics to check the players healthy conditions before the season starts. It could be important if we do all those heart evaluations for all players before the season if we had enough funding. We train medics, we ask clubs to send us their medical people, World Rugby funds the clinic.”

In Cricket, there are not many serious cases reported but when a player was hit by a ball during national team trials in Jinja, the Association has made it a must that all batsmen must have helmets especially from Under-16.

There were ugly scenes in Basketball in 2019 during a league game between UCU Lady Canons and KIU Rangers at the indoor arena when point guard Rhoda Naggita collapsed. She was carried, with the help of FUBA refs Brian Ssebalamu, Baker Kyambadde and other members, but to make matters worse, the lower doors of the arena were locked, so it necessitated the helpers to lift the patient across the stairs.
She was rushed to Abii hospital in Wandegeya via UCU team bus where she received treatment. Even up to now, games continue to be played without an ambulance in place. And the same can be said of other disciplines like Netball where few teams have medical doctors.

Just last year, kickboxer Mark Bugembe died at the age of 26 when he was training. In 2018, boxer Mustafa Katende also died after a collapse in training at Police training school in Kibuli.

Other incidents have gone unnoticed, but what is very similar in all circumstances is that medical check-ups have been ignored while teams have not taken initiatives to train players on how to give first aid. In Eriksen’s situation, Denmark captain Kjaer secured Eriksen’s neck, his teammate Simon Kjaer cleared Eriksen’s airwaves and administered CPR before medics arrived on the scene.



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