Resuscitation Council UK launches guidelines to help increase cardiac arrest survival rates amongst athletes

Resuscitation Council UK (RCUK) has launched new guidelines to help save lives across all community and professional sporting events.  

Resuscitation on the Field of Play: best practice guidelines, aim to improve the response to a sudden cardiac arrest on the field-of-play and increase the chances of a full recovery.  

RCUK says medical teams responding to an athlete suffering a cardiac arrest can help to achieve this through prompt recognition, high-quality CPR, early defibrillation and effective emergency planning.  

The guidelines are designed for medical teams who need to respond to an athlete having a cardiac arrest during or shortly after sporting activity, across all community and professional sports - such as football, swimming and tennis.  

Sudden cardiac arrest on the field-of-play is a rare but devastating event, with approx. 1 in 217,000 people per year suffering a sports-related sudden death. 

Michael Bradfield, Director of Clinical and Service Development at RCUK said: “Sudden cardiac arrest on the field-of-play can be difficult to recognise. Some athletes may look as though they are breathing or have seizure-like activity with their eyes open. It’s important to recognise that these signs can be present, however a person may need immediate resuscitation. Any unexpected collapse where someone is unresponsive should be presumed to be a sudden cardiac arrest and treated accordingly. 

“Medical teams can use our document to support excellent practice in the resuscitation of athletes at all levels of sport.” 

Resuscitation on the Field of Play best practice guidelines include initial assessment and recognition of cardiac arrest, CPR, defibrillation, airway management and transportation of athletes while CPR and defibrillation is taking place.  

Dr Zafar Iqbal, Consultant in Sports and Exercise Medicine and Head of Sports Medicine at Crystal Palace FC said: “I wholeheartedly support the fantastic work done by all those involved in the publication of the Field of Play guidelines. It helps raise further awareness in this important area, which I’ve no doubt will enhance the work, being done in improving survival outcomes, following a cardiac arrest occurring in sport.    

“I’ve been fortunate to have witnessed first-hand, the excellent work by RCUK where in collaboration with CPFC, they have trained our players at Crystal Palace in CPR and defib awareness, and helping promote the message to the public.” 

Neil Greig, Head of Medical Department, Brentford FC said: “Cardiac health is close to our hearts here at Brentford FC and further research in this area is something we continue to work towards through our Heart of West London partnership. We welcome RCUK’s best-practice guidelines which provides important information about dealing with sudden cardiac arrest on the field of play. The more knowledge and education we can spread, the better equipped we can all be about saving lives”  

Elements of the guidelines are easily applicable to people participating in any sporting activity and to all community-based cardiac arrests - with or without a field-of-play medical team available.  

Access the document here.

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For more information or to request for an interview or case studies please call the Resuscitation Council UK Press Office on 0207 388 4678 or email / /  

Notes to editor: 

  1. Resuscitation on the Field of Play: best practice guidelines are available here  

  1. Resuscitation on the Field of Play: best practice guidelines were created in association with BHF, Centre for Sports Cardiology, UW Medicine, The FA, St John Ambulance and Sudden Cardiac Arrest UK  

  1. ‘Field-of-play’ refers to any sporting or playing venue.  

  1. Resuscitation Council UK is saving lives by developing guidelines, influencing policy, delivering courses and supporting cutting-edge research. Through education, training and research, we’re working towards the day when everyone in the country has the skills they need to save a life. 

  1. 1 in 217 000 people per year suffering a sports-related sudden death -