Luton Captain Tom Lockyers Cardiac Arrest Incidents Call Attention to the Need for AEDs in Sports

Tom Lockyer
Image Credit: Eddie Keogh/Getty Images

During a recent soccer match, Luton Town Football [American soccer] Club's captain, Tom Lockyer, suffered a sudden cardiac arrest, reigniting concerns about the health risks that professional athletes face on the field. The incident occurred on December 16th during a match against AFC Bournemouth in the coastal town of Bournemouth, ~100 miles south of London.

Lockyer's collapse prompted the match to be called off, and he was swiftly attended to by medical professionals. The Luton Town Football Club released a statement revealing that Tom Lockyer was responsive as he was carried off the field on a stretcher and transported to a nearby hospital. The club expressed gratitude towards the medical staff for their prompt action and the fans for their unity and support during the distressing moment.

However, this is not the first time that Tom Lockyer has faced a cardiac medical emergency on the field. Lockyer disclosed to Sky Sports that he had collapsed during a game in May due to an irregular heartbeat, medically termed an "atrial flutter." Remarkably, he received the "all-clear" from his physician to resume playing just a week later after undergoing a corrective procedure.

Lockyer, now 29, described the previous cardiac episode as the "least severe heart condition you could have." Despite the seemingly minor nature of the incident in May, the recurrence of a cardiac event has raised questions about the adequacy of medical assessments and the potential risks that athletes face even after receiving medical clearance.

The use of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) can make a significant difference in responding to cardiac emergencies swiftly and effectively. AEDs are portable devices that can easily be transported on team buses, soccer fields, to football stadiums, and baseball parks. Typically used by an athletic trainer during high-level sports, an AED does not always have to be used by a trained professional. These user-friendly devices allow even individuals without any extensive medical training to use them in an emergency situation since they have built-in technology to walk you step-by-step through the resuscitation process. After analyzing the heart's rhythm, the device will determine and deliver an electrical shock to correct the heart back into a normal rhythm.

There is no excuse not to have an AED as part of your team's equipment and your personnel trained in their use. Not only have we seen a rise in soccer sports communities this year, but American football with Damar Hamlin's collapse on the field at the beginning of 2023 and Bronny James during a basketball workout as well.

The rise in athletes prompts a reevaluation of the cardiac screening processes for athletes, especially those with a history of cardiac issues. Lockyer's episode in May, while seemingly less severe, raises questions about the adequacy of the current assessments conducted on athletes and whether more stringent measures should be in place to help ensure the health and well-being of players.

Screenings should not be limited to initial assessments but should be ongoing, considering the dynamic nature of the athlete's physical condition. Regular check-ups and monitoring can help identify issues before they escalate, enabling timely interventions. Preventative measures aside, it's important for sports officials, coaches, and sports leaders to take action now and be prepared for the unexpected. Even your healthiest players with no underlying heart condition can still fall victim to sudden cardiac arrest.

As we await further updates on Tom Lockyer's condition and the results of his tests and scans, this incident serves as another reminder to all, to spread the importance of the widespread availability of AEDs in sports venues and prioritize the well-being of all athletes. Contact us today, and we'll help you create an emergency action plan to protect your entire team.

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