FAI medical director surprised game restarted after Eriksen collapsed

Dr Alan Byrne says pre-Euros cardiac screening tests do not pick up all conditions

FAI medical director Dr Alan Byrne would have been uncomfortable with Republic of Ireland players restarting a match just hours after witnessing one of their team-mates suffer cardiac arrest on the pitch.

Following Christian Eriksen's collapse during Saturday's European Championship game in Copenhagen, Danish and Finnish players chose to play on rather than postpone the fixture until noon on Sunday.

“When I saw the game going ahead I was surprised,” said Dr Byrne. “I am not sure if they were the two options that were placed in front of them. I actually thought it would be called a draw.

“Maybe that is me being very simplistic and I know the integrity of the whole competition is important but, being a doctor, the health of people is more important to me.


"But it is very difficult to know, until you are in the situation, what you would do," added Byrne, who did treat Shane Duffy after a training ground collision in 2010 required emergency liver surgery in the Mater hospital. "I don't want to be critical of any decision that was made. This is an extreme situation that I have never witnessed and I have been working in football medicine for most of my life.


“I do know after Shane Duffy was unwell it took me a few days to come to terms with what the consequences could have been.

“I have always considered players as patients and you treat patients all the same, whether they are in your office or the football pitch.”

Eriksen would have received cardiac screening tests before the Euros, Dr Byrne revealed, which includes an echocardiogram to help diagnose heart conditions with similar tests compulsory before he could play for Inter Milan in European competition.

These tests would pick up a hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy (HOCM), which is a significant cause of sudden cardiac death in young people, but other conditions like channelopathies can go undetected.

“Screening does not pick up everything,” said Dr Byrne. “That’s another reason why the training part of resuscitation, knowing CPR and basic life support, and the availability of AEDs [defibrillators] is so important.”

Dr Byrne said League of Ireland players undergo compulsory cardiac screening every three years.

“The bottom of the pyramid is where the Brendan O’Carroll/Mrs Brown’s Boys programme was due to focus in 2020. On the training of grass-roots club members and coaches, we were targeting a minimum of 500 people but Covid put the kibosh on that.

“September is a doable period to safely get people together at a venue and train them without the risk of Covid.”

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent