HUNS Heart Check 6 2500

Croatian player union arranges heart examinations for players

16 July 2021
Croatian player union HUNS arranged that all professional footballers who are a member of their union can have a free heart check (echocardiography) at a private clinic.

FIFPRO welcomes the initiative, but wants to make clear that this examination should be part of a mandatory pre-competition medical assessment in Croatia by clubs, the league or federation arranged through a collective bargaining agreement.

During the last decade, Croatian football lost at least six players due to sudden cardiac deaths. Some passed away in their sleep, others died on the pitch. Research showed that some of them had developed a cardiovascular problem, which had gone unnoticed.

The last casualty was Bruno Boban, who collapsed during a league match a few weeks after attending the player union’s training camp for out-of-contract players.

“We recognized a big problem and that’s why we have to drastically change the care for footballers,” said HUNS President Dario Simic, a former defender who played 100 matches for Croatia.

HUNS Heart Check 5 1100
Dr. Tomislav Madzar and Dario Simic

The heart checks for players will be done in cooperation with a private clinic called Polyclinic Life Zagreb.

The union - after consulting club doctors and renowned medical experts - wants the football federation to make these more detailed medical assessments mandatory.

“Checks must include echocardiography and ergometry,” said Dr. Tomislav Madzar, who works at the clinic: ”The sport has become more demanding, players’ workload has increased and this has consequences for the players’ health.”

HUNS General Secretary Mario Juric, a former player too, had his first echocardiographic examination of his heart when he was 33, just before the end of his career. “Young players should also have such checks, it can save their lives.”

The player union also stressed the need for an educational campaign for players on how to perform CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and how to use an AED (automatic external defibrillator).

HUNS Heart Check 7 1100
Mario Juric

FIFPRO’s Chief Medical Officer Prof. Vincent Gouttebarge welcomed the initiative by the Croatian player union, but said that medical checks should not be the responsibility of a single stakeholder. “The football industry including all national stakeholders must take care of all players and should implement an extensive medical examination including a thorough cardiac assessment.”

“Every year, professional footballers die as a result of heart problems. In some cases ,their lives could have been saved if they had had a thorough cardiac assessment.”

“We recommend a worldwide implementation of a standard high quality medical assessment to safeguard the health of the players. This includes education as well.”