Heart health screening call after youth match tragedy
2017-12-15 17:30:00 -

By Ken McCue

Sport Ireland has been urged to introduce mandatory cardiac screening of all athletes over 12 years of age following the sudden death of Shelbourne U16 player Izzy Dezu during a match recently.


Dezu, 16, collapsed during a match with St Kevin’s Boys on Tuesday 12 December. Paramedics treated the young soccer prospect at the scene but he was later pronounced dead at Beaumont Hospital of suspected Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome (Sads).


Emmanuel Njume Sone of Cairde, an NGO that challenged health inequalities among ethnic minorities in Ireland, points out that the nation’s health services now have the technology to screen for heart conditions in children. 


“The Mater Hospital has a machine that is designed to help diagnose cardiac abnormalities in children, and there are portable machines for schools that must be incorporated in the newly announced physical education Leaving Certificate course,” he says.


“We are faced with a situation where we are dealing with ‘Sudden Child Death Syndrome’ and with the young people in the Irish Republic on top of the obesity league, we can expect more tragedies on and off the playing fields if we don’t act now. The sudden death of another fit youngster must shake us into action.”


The death of Dezu, who previously played for Cherry Orchard FC, is the second tragedy to befall Shelbourne following the murder of 15-year-old old Tosoyi Shittabey in 2010. 


Two years ago, Shelbourne’s neighbour club Belvedere FC player lost U16 player Shetemi Ayetigbo to sudden cardiac arrest on the playing field.


Ireland has one of the highest rates of Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome, with up to 100 young people each year experiencing cardiac arrest. And with an estimated one in 300 with cardiac abnormalities, Sone says is high time to introduce a screening programme.


He suggests following the practice in Italy, which has mandatory testing for everyone aged from 12 to 35 years involved in competitive sport. Incidences of Sads in that country have been reduced by 89 percent over the last 25 years, he says.


The GAA and International Rugby Board already recommend screening for all players over 14 years, but other sporting bodies have followed suit.


Meanwhile, the FAI has passed on its sincere condolences to Dezu’s family and will pay tribute to the youngster at the next senior men’s home international in 2018.


Paddy Dempsey, chair of the Dublin and District Schoolboy’s League, said: “It’s a shock for the whole league that a person so young could die in such tragic circumstances. He had gone out to play a sport that he loved and ended up not going home.”


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