Sports medicine expert urges mandatory checks for players
Sports medicine expert, Dr Prince Pambo, is advocating that local clubs should be compelled to undertake mandatory comprehensive medical examinations for their players ahead of competition to ensure early detection of medical conditions and treatment to minimise risks and possible sudden deaths, especially those related to cardiovascular conditions.
He emphasised that such medical assessments, such as those in place by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) before players participate in competitions organised by the continental body, are very essential as sportsmen and sportswomen of African descent are susceptible and genetically predisposed to sudden cardiac problems where players suddenly drop off the field and die.
As a Specialist Sports Cardiologist and a Member of the CAF Medical Committee, Dr Pambo told the Daily Graphic that even though it was a requirement for Ghanaian clubs to undergo a pre-competition medical examination, which included cardiovascular examination, he was uncertain if all clubs complied, they would ensure players were given a clean bill of health before competitions.
Heartbroken by the sudden death last Saturday of former Black Stars forward, Raphael Dwamena, who collapsed while playing for FK Egnatia against Partizani in the Albanian Superiore league before being stretchered off by emergency medical personnel, Dr Pambo revealed that through pre-competition medical assessment he and other doctors had carried out in Ghana, some players were red-flagged and underwent further investigations before being cleared to play. Such a measure, he maintained, ensured that the right steps were taken to reduce associated risks for the players.
"From the point of CAF, you cannot be in any CAF competition without undergoing a mandatory pre-competition medical assessment, which includes cardiovascular evaluation, with Electrocardiogram (ECG) and Echocardiography, and it is the same with our Premier League. You cannot or shouldn't be able to register a player if you've not ticked the medical boxes where the player is supposed to go through comprehensive medical assessment," he said.
"Cardiovascular evaluation to pick up any such problems is an integral part of our pre-competition assessment. Unfortunately, there are some cardiac problems you cannot pick up during pre-competition assessment," said Dr Pambo, who is the Head of the Black Stars' medical team and also undertook the medical examinations of Hearts of Oak before the start of the season.
Dwamena's condition has been well-documented since it was first diagnosed in 2017. Two years ago, Dr Pambo advised the player to quit the game after he collapsed on the pitch while playing for Blau-Weiß Linz in an Austrian Cup match against Hartberg. He was given Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillator (ICD) shocks to stabilise him and has been playing with a defibrillator implanted through surgery in 2020 to enable his club to monitor his heart during matches.