Scientists reject vaccine 'theory' after spate of players and fans collapsing
A fan at Watford suffered cardiac arrest and a Southampton supporter also collapsed as English matches were disrupted by more health alerts on Wednesday.
Play at Vicarage Road was stopped after Marcos Alonso alerted officials, prompting Chelsea's medical staff to help stabilise the individual. Southampton's fixture against Leicester was also halted temporarily, although the fan being taken to hospital was believed to be in a less serious condition.
The incidents come a week after on-field emergencies involving Wigan’s Charlie Wyke, John Fleck, of Sheffield United, and Sheriff Tiraspol’s Adama Traore.
With the Christian Eriksen incident and the collapse of a Newcastle fan also fresh in memories, Chelsea and Watford players are understood to have refused to come back onto the pitch and warm-up until they had definitive news on the fan's condition.
As a result, the match was halted for more than 30 minutes, having been stopped 13 minutes into the first half. Watford later confirmed the supporter was stable in hospital.
The medical emergency at St Mary's also caused a five-minute delay to the start of the second half of the match between Southampton and Leicester. It had been suggested the fan had a fit, although there is no confirmed information from Southampton about the fan's condition. The fan was said to be conscious as they were taken away from the inner arena.
Despite a perceived increase in emergencies in stadiums, scientists have countered claims linking the Covid-19 vaccine with heart problems in football. Following wild speculation last week, experts pointed to research showing that previous coronavirus infection would be a more likely contributory factor than the jab, if there was any link at all.
A recent American study found that younger people infected with the virus were up to six times more likely to develop myocarditis than those who received the vaccine.
“Anything the vaccines do, natural infection will almost certainly be more common with disease,” said Prof Keith Neal, who has 25 years of experience in the research of the epidemiology of infectious diseases at the University of Nottingham. Prof Jonathan Ball, a molecular virologist at the same university, added: “Studies have shown that Covid is more likely to cause myocarditis and pericarditis than the vaccines.”
The pair, who referenced research by universities and heart centres in Ohio, had already expressed their concern about former players sparking fears the vaccine had contributed to the recent health alerts. Prof Neal said there was no evidence to show conclusively that any aspect of Covid was impacting on health in elite sport. “But these things are always investigated if reported,” he added.
With the world facing a fresh wave of infections, scientists said it was unwise of sporting pundits to continue questioning the wisdom of having the jab.
TalkSport was forced to cut off Trevor Sinclair from a broadcast last week as he questioned whether Fleck, who collapsed against Reading on Tuesday, had recently had the jab. “I think everyone wants to know if he [Fleck] has had the Covid vaccine,” he said.
Former professionals, such as Ramon Vega and Matthew Le Tissier, had demanded investigations, prompting scientists to remind them of their “public responsibility”.
“Given the track record of certain footballers in the field of anti-vaccine beliefs, it is totally irresponsible to make unsubstantiated comments, as opposed to getting them properly dealt with,” Prof Neal had said.
Prof Robert Dingwall, a public health specialist at Nottingham Trent University, said: “There are many reasons why on-field collapses may occur, even in clusters. We should all be careful not to blame any particular cause until they have been properly investigated. It may be tempting to blame Covid vaccines but pundits do have a public responsibility not to fuel vaccine hesitancy without any real evidence that this is a common factor in widely separated events.”
Prof Dingwall later added: "There have long been suggestions that elite athletes should take particular care in returning to full training or performance after any viral infection. It would not be surprising, then, if even a mild Covid infection were to have a greater impact on this group than on the general population. However, there is a lack of evidence to establish that a specific virus caused a particular event or set of events."
Misinformation was spread after Denmark’s Christian Eriksen suffered on-field cardiac arrest during Euro 2020 in the summer. Inter Milan have since confirmed that he had not even had his first jab at the time of his collapse.