Row erupts over stars’ heart health screenings

PLAYERS’ chiefs have defended the rigour of medical check-ups on top footballers after suggestions more could have been done to prevent Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba’s on-field cardiac arrest.

Muamba, 23, continued to show signs of slight improvement yesterday, 72 hours after he suddenly collapsed and his heart stopped beating during Saturday’s FA Cup fixture at Tottenham.

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini and former Wales striker John Hartson yesterday criticised current screening practices in England, while Premier League chief Richard Scudamore has vowed to review procedures.

But Gordon Taylor, chairman of the Professional Footballers’ Association, pointed out that £7m had been spent on checking players for heart defects over the last two decades.

“We are advised by cardiologists and for the last 20 years we have spent £350,000 a year on screening players,” said Taylor.

“For obvious reasons, in the immediate aftermath of Saturday night, we checked Fabrice’s records and he had been screened four times. The truth is even if you screened someone every three months, there may be some things that wouldn’t get picked up.”

Mancini said Muamba’s unexpected cardiac arrest “should be impossible” with the checks at top clubs’ disposal, adding that measures were “better in Italy”, his home country.

Cancer survivor Hartson called for more CT scans as part of routine medicals, adding: “I was carrying cancer around for about eight years and had signed for two or three clubs.”

Scudamore said top-flight bosses would assess “every aspect of what happened” to Muamba at White Hart Lane and “do whatever we can to improve”.

Muamba remains in intensive care at the London Chest Hospital, but his condition is thought to have improved from “critical” to “serious”.

Bolton manager Owen Coyle, who visited his player again yesterday, said he had been able to have a brief conversation with him for the first time.