List of Footballers Who Suffered and Died of Cardiac Arrest

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Aman Priya Khanna
Written by Hexahealth Care Team, last updated on 19 January 2024
List of Footballers Who Suffered and Died of Cardiac Arrest

Cardiac arrest is often fatal when the heart suddenly stops beating. This can happen to anyone, but some sportspeople are particularly prone to it due to their physical exertion on the playground. Cardiac arrests in footballers are no exception; sadly, many have died during matches or training sessions.

Footballers have unfortunately suffered from cardiac arrest on the pitch. According to FIFA Sudden Death Report, a 2020 study, it is estimated that over 617 football players worldwide have died from sudden cardiac death from 2014 to 2018. 

This article will look at some footballers who suffered cardiac arrest and ultimately lost their lives while playing. We'll discuss their stories and cardiovascular health among footballers everywhere.

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Why Are Footballers At The Risk of Cardiac Arrest?

Cardiac arrest in footballers is quite common due to their physically intensive lifestyle and the stress of playing professionally. Cardiac arrest happens when the heart stops, interrupting blood flow throughout the body. 

Several factors, including overexertion during physical activity and genetic predisposition, can cause this. 

  1. Intensive Pressure: Footballers often put themselves under intense pressure to perform well, leading to increased adrenaline and heart rates during games or training sessions. The resulting strain on the cardiovascular system can make it more difficult for oxygenated blood to reach all body parts, causing cardiac arrest in some cases.
  2. Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy: Footballers are more prone than most people to suffer from underlying cardiovascular conditions like hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). HCM is an enlargement of one part of the heart muscle that makes it harder for blood to flow efficiently through. 
  3. Coronary Artery Disease: Other possible causes include coronary artery disease (CAD) – where fatty deposits build up inside arteries supplying blood to the heart.
    Arrhythmias – electrical disturbances in the normal heartbeat rhythm originating within the ventricles or upper chambers of our hearts is another reason.
  4. Immense Energy Consumption: Overall, since football requires immense energy output, there will always be some degree of risk involved in cardiac health. However, following proper guidelines can greatly reduce these risks on and off the pitch, including fewer chances for potentially fatal incidents occurring during playtime.
  5. Arrhythmias and Heart Disease: Electrical disturbances like arrhythmias can occur when there's an imbalance between cells responsible for controlling heart rate and rhythm; this affects blood flow throughout the body and can lead to fainting spells or cardiac arrest if left untreated.
    Additionally, certain forms of inherited heart disease may increase the chances of developing arrhythmia later on down the line, so athletes with a family history of risk factors need to take precautionary measures prior to engaging in rigorous exercise activities.  
  6. Acquired conditions: Some of the following conditions can be acquired by anyone including footballers which can lead to cardiac arrest.
    1. Kawasaki disease: Kawasaki disease is a rare illness that affects the heart and can lead to cardiac arrest. Footballers are particularly vulnerable to this condition due to their intense physical activity.
    2. Myocarditis: Footballers are at an increased risk of developing myocarditis, a potentially fatal heart muscle inflammation. This is due to their intense training, making awareness, and prevention key factors in managing this condition.
    3. Commotio Cordis: Playing football can put athletes at risk of commotio cordis, a sudden cardiac arrest caused by an impact on the chest. This type of injury is more common in young male athletes.
      The force of the impact disrupts the electrical activity in the heart and can cause death within minutes if not treated immediately with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and/or an automated external defibrillator (AED). 
  7. Wolf-Parkinson-White (WPW): It is a syndrome that increases the risk of sudden cardiac arrest in footballers. It is caused by an extra electrical pathway between the heart's upper and lower chambers, which disrupts normal heart rhythm.
    Footballers with WPW syndrome may be more at risk for a rapid or irregular heartbeat during intense physical activity, which can lead to fainting, chest pain, and even fatal cardiac arrest if left untreated.
    Early screening and treatment are essential to managing this condition in footballers so they can safely participate in sports without fear of serious complications.
Several potential causes could contribute towards cardiac arrest in football players. However, following prevention and timely screening can help reduce any chance significantly.
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Which Footballers Suffered Cardiac Arrest?

Football is the world's most popular and beloved sport, with millions of players around the globe playing it competitively. Unfortunately, cardiac arrest in footballers has taken some talented gems throughout history. Their sudden deaths often leave a lasting mark on the sport. 

This list provides an overview of which footballers suffered cardiac arrest and died. It includes amateur and professional athletes from over a century of football history. These examples are an essential reminder that cardiac arrests can happen even in fit young people. 

1. Marc-Vivien Foe

Marc-Vivien Foe was a Cameroonian professional footballer who played for clubs in France, England, and Russia before his death in 2003. He began playing internationally at 17, making his first appearance for the Cameroon national team in 1997. In 2003, he was loaned to Manchester City from the French club RC Lens.

Foe collapsed on the field during the second half of the FIFA Confederations Cup semifinal match against Colombia, without any contact with another player or colliding with anything else.

Medical staff rushed onto the pitch to attend to him but were unable to revive him, and he was pronounced dead shortly afterwards due to heart failure caused by hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (enlargement of heart muscle). He became one of five footballers who died while playing an international game. 

After the cardiac arrest of the footballer, his legacy lives on through initiatives such as Marc Vivien Foé Foundation, which works towards providing educational opportunities for young people in Africa.

2. Miklos Feher

Miklos Feher was a Hungarian professional footballer who played as a forward for Benfica at the time of his death. He made his debut in 1997 with MTK Hungaria. He went on to play for clubs such as Hertha BSC, Vitoria Setubal, and, most recently, Benfica.

Feher tragically passed away while playing football in 2004 during a UEFA Cup match against Vitoria Guimaraes due to sudden cardiac arrest caused by ventricular fibrillation (VF).

Ventricular fibrillation (VF) is a condition caused when the electrical signals that control heart rate become irregular. It makes the heart muscle contract very quickly and weakly instead of pumping blood efficiently around the body. It is believed that Miklos suffered from an underlying genetic disorder known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which can cause this event without warning. 

This cardiac arrest in the footballer shocked many people throughout Europe. As a testament to him following his passing, Benfica renamed their stadium Estádio da Luz ("Stadium of Light '') after him.

They also erected two statues in honour of their former player outside it - one depicting him scoring a goal, another representing him doing keepie-uppies while wearing Portugal's national shirt with "FEHER 10" emblazoned across it.

3. Antonio Puerta

Antonio Puerta was a Spanish professional footballer who played as a left-sided midfielder for Sevilla FC. He died on August 28, 2007, at the age of 22, due to cardiac arrest, which he suffered during a match against Getafe CF.

On the day of the match, Antonio suddenly collapsed in the 77th minute and had to be stretchered off the field. After three days in the hospital and several attempts at resuscitating him, doctors could not revive Antonio and declared him dead on August 28. 

The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) also issued an official statement conveying its deepest condolences for this tragedy. Sevilla FC announced plans for setting up an annual award named after Antonio Puerta in remembrance of him; this award is presented each year by the RFEF to players showing exemplary commitment and dedication towards football development in Spain. 

A sculpture was also erected outside Sevilla's Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium displaying quotes from some of his most memorable speeches whilst playing for the team, thus providing an eternal reminder of one of Spain's most beloved sportsmen – Antonio Puerta – gone too soon but never forgotten!

4. Iker Casillas

Iker Casillas was a Spanish professional footballer who played as a goalkeeper. He began his career in Real Madrid's youth teams. With them, he won five La Liga titles, two Copa del Reys, four Supercopa de Espana, three UEFA Champions Leagues, and the Intercontinental Cup.

Iker is deemed one of the greatest goalkeepers in history. Sadly on May 1 2021, it was announced that Casillas had suffered a heart attack at Porto's training ground while training with the squad. 

Casillas received treatment from medics at the Estadio do Dragao before being taken to the hospital by ambulance. He underwent tests that revealed infarction (heart attack), causing damage to part of his heart muscle. 

This cardiac arrest in the footballer had come as a shock to many fans across Europe who fondly remember him not only for being an incredible goalkeeper but also for being an ambassador for football both on and off the pitch – known throughout Spain as 'San Iker' or Saint Iker.

5. Daniel Jarque

Daniel Jarque was a Spanish professional footballer who played for RCD Espanyol, one of the most successful teams in La Liga. In August 2009, Daniel suffered from serious heart problems during a training session and died later that day at 26.

After his death, an autopsy reported that he had an enlarged heart which caused cardiac arrest during the practice session. This tragedy occurred just three days before the start of the La Liga season and shocked not only Espanyol but all football fans around Europe. 

The news sent shock waves throughout Spain as Jarque's teammates were left grief-stricken by this sudden loss while his club president described him as "an example to follow".

On August 16 2009, thousands gathered outside Cornella-El Prat Stadium to pay their last respects, with several members of the Spanish national team attending, including Iker Casillas and Xavi Hernandez, among others. In memory of Daniel Jarque's life, Espanyol retired 'number 6' in honour of their former captain - a number which has never been worn again since then. 

6. Davide Astori 

Davide Astori was an Italian football player who tragically passed away in 2018. He had been playing for Fiorentina since 2015. On March 4 2018, he was found dead in his hotel room while on a preseason visit with his club to Udine, Italy, due to a sudden cardiac arrest caused by a previously undiagnosed heart condition. 

The news of this cardiac arrest in a footballer shook the sports world as it shocked many, with players from all around taking part in various tributes during their matches and training sessions.

The Italian Football Federation also cancelled all activities for that day out of respect for Davide Astori. It announced an official mourning period of seven days, within which no Serie A match could take place. 

7. Fabrice Muamba

Fabrice Muamba was a former professional footballer who played for England, France, and Scotland teams. He passed away on March 17, 2012, after suffering from a cardiac arrest during an FA Cup match against Tottenham Hotspur. He had collapsed on the pitch but, despite medical attention, never regained consciousness.

In memory of Fabrice Muamba, Bolton Wanderers retired their shirt number 6, which he wore whilst at the club, and held a minute's silence before every game for several weeks afterwards in respect for him.


It is essential to note that cardiac arrest can strike anytime and anywhere. While some of the footballers listed here had an underlying heart condition that may have contributed to their death, others did not. Cardiac arrest in footballers serves as a reminder of how important it is for all athletes to get regularly screened for any potential heart problems. 

If you are an athlete, HexaHealth can provide all the right information to help you stay fit and healthy. Our team of experts gets you access to cardio specialists who specialise in understanding how your body works while exercising, ensuring that your cardiovascular health is always at its best.
HexaHealth keeps track of any changes or issues to suggest possible solutions before they turn into serious problems. Their personalised approach guarantees the athletes maximum results without compromising their safety or wellness.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Give an example of a cardiac arrest footballer?

Marc-Vivien Foe tragically passed away in 2003 during an international match due to a heart attack. He was only 28 years old and was one of the few who died of cardiac arrest footballer.

Why do footballers have heart attacks?

Cardiac arrest in footballers puts a lot of strain on their bodies while playing, which can increase their risk for cardiac events. Factors such as age and lifestyle also contribute to the risk.

What is the common cause of sudden cardiac death in athletes?

The common cause of sudden cardiac arrest in footballers is an underlying heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). It happens due to an abnormal thickening of the heart muscle. It can lead to arrhythmias, inadequate blood flow, and sudden cardiac arrest.

Why do cardiac arrests happen more in soccer?

The sudden physical strain of intense exercise can cause cardiac arrest in footballers. Soccer is a sport that involves running, jumping and other strenuous activities, which can increase the risk of cardiac arrest.

Other factors, such as dehydration or underlying heart conditions, may also contribute to an increased likelihood of cardiac arrest during soccer games.

What sport has the highest risk of sudden cardiac death?

Football (American) has the highest risk of sudden cardiac death among athletes. The American Heart Association notes that football players are 3X more likely to experience a cardiac incident than other athletes in all sports, mainly due to the physicality of the game and the high intensity of training sessions.

Other factors, such as dehydration, heat exhaustion, and overexertion, can also contribute to this risk.

How can athletes prevent sudden cardiac death?

Athletes can prevent sudden cardiac death by having regular medical checkups, eating a healthy diet and maintaining an active lifestyle. They should also know the warning signs of cardiac problems, such as chest pain or shortness of breath during exercise and should seek immediate medical attention when required.

Additionally, any athlete who has a family history of heart issues should have an evaluation by a cardiologist before engaging in physical activities.

What causes death during exercise?

Excessive physical exertion during exercise can lead to death by causing cardiac arrest, dehydration, or heat stroke. Other causes of death during exercise include hyponatremia and asthma attacks.

What is the leading cause of death among athletes?

The leading cause of death in athletes is sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). SCA happens when the heartbeat is stopped suddenly due to an underlying electrical problem. Athletes' most common causes of SCA include hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, coronary artery disease, and congenital heart defects.

Other contributing factors may include dehydration and traumatic brain injury.

What sport has the highest death rate?

According to recent data, BASE jumping has the highest death rate of any sport. This extreme sport involves parachuting or wingsuit flying from a high point such as a cliff or building and is inherently dangerous due to its reliance on correct equipment usage and weather conditions.

Other activities with relatively high fatality rates include bull riding, motorsports like Formula One racing, and mountaineering.

What age do heart attacks happen the most?

Most heart attacks occur in adults aged 45 and older. In fact, approximately 735,000 Americans have a heart attack each year, with the average age being 65 for men and 70 for women. However, it is essential to note that this condition can also affect younger people.

Can drinking water prevent heart attacks in football players?

Drinking water alone cannot prevent heart attacks in football players. However, staying hydrated is important for overall good health and can help decrease the risk of heart disease by improving circulation and reducing strain on the cardiovascular system.

What time of day do most heart attacks occur?

Most heart attacks occur in the morning, between 6 am and noon. This is likely due to increased stress as people rush around to prepare for work or school. Some studies have found that blood pressure tends to be higher in the mornings, which could also increase the risk of a heart attack.

Updated on : 19 January 2024


Dr. Aman Priya Khanna

Dr. Aman Priya Khanna

MBBS, DNB General Surgery, Fellowship in Minimal Access Surgery, FIAGES

12 Years Experience

Dr Aman Priya Khanna is a well-known General Surgeon, Proctologist and Bariatric Surgeon currently associated with HealthFort Clinic, Health First Multispecialty Clinic in Delhi. He has 12 years of experience in General Surgery and worke...View More


About Authors

HexaHealth Care Team

HexaHealth Care Team brings you medical content covering many important conditions, procedures falling under different medical specialities. The content published is thoroughly reviewed by our panel of qualified doctors for its accuracy and relevance.

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