When Petr Cech suffered a skull fracture during Chelsea’s game against Reading back in 2006, Jose Mourinho was not happy.
The then Chelsea boss pointed the finger at several for the goalkeeper’s horrific injury, among them South Central Ambulance Service NHS Trust.
Occupying Mourinho’s mind were claims that it took 30 minutes for an ambulance to arrive and take the injured Cech to Royal Berkshire.
Typically, Mourinho didn’t hold back: “If my goalkeeper dies in that dressing-room because of that process it is something for English football to think about.”
Alan Hodson, then head of medicine at the Football Association, asked medic Mark Gillett to write a blueprint for future treatment of footballers in the Premier League.
The former Good Hope consultant, who was to join Chelsea’s backroom, tackled several issues in his document, including the need to have provisions in place to transfer footballers to hospital as quickly as possible.
Gillett, now West Bromwich Albion’s head of medical services, believes it was this which helped save the life of Fabrice Muamba last week.
The Bolton midfielder suffered a cardiac arrest during their FA Cup clash with Spurs.
Inevitably, the nature of Muamba’s injury has led to calls for players to be given more frequent heart screening.
Gillett insists that the fast response of medics, rather than pre-emptive heart screening, will prove the key to Muamba’s survival.
“The impetus to the changes came from the Petr Cech incident,” said Gillett.
“He had a positive outcome but it did galvanise the Premier League. We need to make sure that the type of access Muamba had in terms of somebody pumping his chest and giving him electricity is disseminated throughout the lower leagues and grass roots, rather than people putting resources towards screening which is of no proven benefit whatsoever.
“If you have a sudden cardiac event your chances of survival depends on how quickly someone can get to you and give you chest compressions and access to electricity. So, touch wood, as Fabrice goes on a large part of his beneficial outcome will be down to the fact that the right people were there, he got CPR and electricity very quickly. As time goes on we need to concentrate on that, which is a massive success story, rather than going down a blind alley and knee-jerk stuff of screening people more often, which won’t be particularly helpful.
“The message is simple: once you recognise the heart has stopped then getting people quickly to apply electricity. That’s what saves lives.”
Gillett gave further insight into other changes implemented as part of his blueprint.
“Doctors and physios within the Premier League need to have passed tests and have certificates as part of the reviewed regulations,” he added. “You need a certain level of equipment, a paramedic crew to be available for the players.
“Following the Taylor Report there was always a paramedic crew available for the crowd, but there was never anyone to look after the players.
“The whole process works pretty well. It’s an evolving process and the Premier League is on top of it.”