Ahead of the CAF African U-17 Championship, a group of international experts under the leadership of the FIFA Chief Medical Officer Prof. Jiri Dvorak and the Head of Research of the FIFA Medical Assessment and Research Centre (F-MARC) Dr Astrid Junge, together with national team physicians, will test a new approach to performing pre-competition medical assessments. As it is known that intense exercise can trigger Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD) in players with underlying heart disease, the main objective of the assessment is to determine whether a footballer is at increased risk of SCD.
The feasibility of a football-specific pre-competition medical assessment was first tested at the 2006 FIFA World Cup™. However, as the examinations back then were carried out individually by the qualified teams using a standard F-MARC questionnaire, the results were of differing quality standards. Other obstacles which make such assessments difficult, and particularly if teams have players based around the world, include time constraints, logistics and costs.
In order to ensure the quality of the assessment and make it as effective and efficient as possible, F-MARC will now seek to undertake the examinations in cooperation with the national team physicians in the four days prior to the CAF African U-17 Championship in Algeria (19 March to 2 April 2009).
All 160 players from the eight participating teams (Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Gambia, Guinea, Malawi, Niger and Zimbabwe), will undergo the assessment which includes a general physical examination of the heart, lungs, spine, ankles, knees, and hips, as well as blood analysis and a comprehensive cardiac examination.
Using the F-MARC pre-competition medical assessment, CAF previously identified an African player with unknown cardiac disease who received the appropriate treatment and was able to continue competing.