The Loss Of Chineme Martins Shows The Desperate Need For Health Education In Nigerian Sports

Oluwole Ola

It goes without saying that he who fails to plan, plans to fail.

On Sunday March 8, 2020 at about 5pm, the Nigerian footballing world was greeted with the tragic news of the demise of Nassarawa United’s defender Chineme Martins who slumped during their 3-0 win against Katsina United in the NPFL.

Chineme collided with an opponent and slumped before he was pronounced dead at the hospital about 15 minutes later.  

While we mourn the death of the player, it is rather sad and tragic to watch the way the situation was handled. First of all, there was no single medical staff or personnel with the knowledge of administering first aid at the scene. About 10 fans tried resuscitating him but It was obvious they had no idea of what they were doing. (Scroll down to watch the video. Viewer discretion is advised)

Furthermore, the only ambulance available at the stadium – a rickety Peugeot 406 – wasn’t in working condition and it needed four ball boys to push it to start.

Chineme somehow managed to hold on till he got the hospital where the medical staff were ill-equipped to deal with sports related injuries and couldn’t save him.

It is heartbreaking to see how little value is placed on the lives of Nigerians, especially athletes who participate in sports with the potential for injuries.

See the tweets below on the summary of events that led up to Chineme’s death. Video discretion is advised on the videos. 

More awareness for sports medicine and health needs to be raised and clubs must be forced to put measures in place in case of emergencies like this. A new extensive research has revealed that elite footballers suffering sudden cardiac death is “much higher than previously believed”. This is according to a study by conducted by St George’s, University of London which analysed more than 11,000 players over a 10-year period from the ages of 16-17.

Eight died during exercise – six from conditions which went unidentified, and two who were diagnosed with the underlying condition hypertrophic cardoimyopathy (HCM) and were advised against competitive sport.

Sam Okwaraji of blessed memory died from a sudden cardiac death (SCD) while playing. Incidence use to be low, but recent research shows its three times greater than it use to be. More worrying is this fact that footballers of African decent are more likely to die from SCD. Examples include Marc Vivian foe of Cameroon and more recently Papi Faty of Burundi, Fabrice Muamba of Bolton and Cheick Tiote who slumped in training while playing for Chinese based Beijing Enterprises.

Read more: The Need For Sports Medicine in Nigerian Football

It is important that periodic cardiac screening is carried out for footballers and athletes to pick up cardiac pathologies. It is recommended that a minimum of an Electrocardiogram (ECG) should be done and an Echocardiography (ECHO) when in doubt.

The question is, how often is cardiac screening done for footballers in Nigeria? Apparently, the LMC has mandated all NPFL clubs to carryout the periodic screening, but is this always adhered to? Who monitors adherence?

Another issue as regards cardiac screening is the lack of sincerity of Nigeria athletes. For instance, during routine history taking, some athletes will deny an history of hypertension or even cardiac death in their family line possibly because they are scared they may be left out.

Thus, we need a lot of health education for our athletes. The players must know that flagging an issue during routine assessment doesn’t mean the end of playing. They need to understand the importance of these screening. Coaches must also insist that it is done

The League Management Company (LMC) must do more in ensuring these measures are in place and strictly adhered to.

Rest in peace Chineme Martins. We are sorry this country failed you. 💔

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