The chairman of England Football Association’s cardiology consensus panel and the lead cardiologist for the London Olympics has said junior India international Anwar Ali should be allowed to play competitive football as long as he ‘understands the risks’ and ‘is under regular surveillance by an expert team.’
Sanjay Sharma, who is also the medical director of the London Marathon, has submitted his analysis in writing to the All India Football Federation (AIFF). Sharma was also present in Sunday’s AIFF’s medical committee meeting, which lasted for more than an hour. The AIFF will study Sharma’s remarks and is likely to meet again in the coming days.
Sharma’s comments are in contradiction to those made by the AIFF and Asian Football Confederation’s medical commissions, which have recommended that Ali, who has been diagnosed with congenital heart disease, should not play competitive football as it would pose a ‘serious risk to his life’.
Ali’s fledgling career has been put on hold after he was diagnosed with a heart problem called Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM), a condition where a portion of the heart becomes thick without any obvious cause. After the AIFF’s recommendation, Ali approached the Delhi High Court, which told the AIFF to consider allowing the defender to rejoin his team Mohammedan Sporting and train with them until the medical committee arrives at a conclusion.
Simultaneously, Ranjit Bajaj, the founder of Minerva Punjab Academy where Ali began his career, reached out to Sharma who agreed to look into the player’s case.
In a letter dated October 8, which has been submitted to the AIFF, Sharma wrote: “According to the ESC (European Society of Cardiology) guidelines in sports cardiology and exercise in patients with cardiovascular disease, athletes who do not have established high risk features associated with arrhythmogenic sudden cardiac death in hypertrophic cardiomyopathy may participate in competitive sport provided there is regular surveillance of the phenotype.”
Now for some good news amidst this toxicity.. Anwar Ali has been cleared to play by the Chief of Cardiology of @premierleague @SSharmacardio who is the absolute authority on the subject of SCD, HOCM in high performance athletes pic.twitter.com/OqXeqYTIoU
— Ranjit Bajaj (@THE_RanjitBajaj) October 11, 2020
Sharma added Ali does not have ‘any obvious risk factors’. “Anwar and his guardians are aware that the condition is incurable and may cause symptoms during intensive exercise which may curtail his footballing career. The risk profile can alter with time; therefore, it is important that he is under regular surveillance by an expert team,” he said.
Sharma said it is essential ‘the club physiotherapists and doctors are made aware that there is an athlete with an increased risk of cardiac arrest and all medical personnel should be trained in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation and in the use of a defibrillator.’
In addition, he has recommended the club must have a defibrillator on standby each time the player is training or competing, should not compete in extremely hot environments (temperature above 30 degrees) unless he is already acclimatised to such conditions, avoid ‘any performance enhancing substances including large doses of caffeine tablets’ and be assessed in an expert centre on a six-monthly basis.
A member of the AIFF medical committee said they received Sharma’s report ‘around 15 minutes’ before Sunday’s meeting and have sought more time to study it. The next meeting is likely to be held before the next court hearing, scheduled for October 20.