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FIFPro – speaking on behalf of all professional footballers worldwide – is saddened by the tragic death of Gregory Mertens, last Thursday April 30. The 24-year old Belgian defender from KSC Lokeren deceased after having suffered a sudden cardiac arrest during a reserve match on Monday April 27.

Mertens lost consciousness 15 minutes into the first half of the match between the KRC Genk and KSC Lokeren reserves. Since then, Gregory had remained in Genk hospital in a critical condition, until he passed away three days later.

This tragic event related to a suspected heart attack emphasises once more the concerns about the widely accepted (heart-related) pre-competition medical assessment (PCMA) conducted in accordance with the Lausanne Recommendations.

Though Gregory Mertens had been assessed at the start of the season in accordance with a PCMA protocol, FIFPro remains critical about PCMA, addressing especially the lack of its predictive value to prevent sudden cardiac death.

In addition, FIFPro has made several recommendations in order to improve the PCMA in professional football, namely:

  1. The heart-related PCMA protocol in professional football across continents and countries should be standardised in conformity with the latest scientific evidence;
  2. The heart-related PCMA should be made mandatory at all professional levels (including youth) by the (inter)national governing bodies regardless of continent or country;
  3. The mandatory character of the PCMA for all professional footballers (including youth) previously advocated should be guaranteed and monitored by the (inter)national governing bodies.

Also read: Mortality due to heart-related problems among professional footballers

FIFPro is not suggesting that these changes would have prevented Gregory Mertens from suffering his fatal cardiac arrest, but in the opinion of FIFPro it could prevent future casualties.

Furthermore, FIFPro emphasises that professional footballers, being workers i.e. employees in the eyes of the law, should have the same rights from one employer to another for any matters, especially with regard to health and safety. Consequently, the governing bodies within professional football (FIFA, UEFA, etc) should not only consider the necessity of PCMA for players participating in highest international or continental competitions, but for all professional players participating in any professional national competition, regardless of the continent or country.


Photo website KSC Lokeren