The Football Association was singled out for special mention at the second annual FIFA Medical Conference in Budapest on Thursday.
The FA featured in an important debate about the issue of sudden cardiac arrest in footballers, which came in the wake of recent high-profile incidents around the world, notably that concerning Fabrice Muamba.
The Bolton Wanderers midfielder collapsed during an FA Cup tie against Tottenham Hotspur on 17 March, but his life was saved due to the quick-thinking of doctors at White Hart Lane and the fact they had vital equipment to hand.
Professor Jiri Dvorak, a FIFA Chief Medical Officer, addressed the gathered delegates from each of FIFA’s member associations at the Hungexpo centre on Thursday morning and invited Bolton doctor Jonathan Tobin and elite referee Howard Webb, who was in charge of the game, to share their experiences.
The theme of the session was to highlight to national associations the importance of pitch-side defibrillators (AEDs) and how countries like England have emergency plans in place to deal with sudden cardiac arrest at matches and at training grounds.
Professor Dvorak, who referenced an editorial on the issue by FA medical staff in the British Journal of Sports Medicine this month, said: “The message from The FA and Jonathan Tobin is clear. Be prepared and be ready.”
There was also personal testimony from US amateur footballer Craig Hulse, who had collapsed during a match three years ago and was only saved by a team-mate running to a nearby fire station to borrow a defibrillator.
The Conference, which comes before the two-day FIFA Congress in the Hungarian capital, also heard from South African doctor Efraim Kramer, who gave a demonstration with Dr Tobin on how to use a defibrillator in tandem with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
In talking delegates through his ‘Football Emergency Medical Field Plan’, Professor Kramer said: “The time between a player collapsing and an AED is the single most important factor to saving someone’s life...we should never start a football match without this machine.”
Webb spoke of the need for match officials to be able to quickly identify the warning signs of sudden cardiac arrest and also said players should think carefully about the impact of feigning injury or time-wasting tactics during a game.
"I think the message we are trying to get across is that it is always better for referees to be safe rather than sorry, not to take chances and for everyone involved in the game to understand that a referee's first priority is to look after the players in the game he is taking charge of.
"If he does stop the play, and it turns out to be nothing, it is not the referee's fault because his priority is the players."