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  • Writer's pictureHenrike Laing

Amateur Footballer Calls for More Awareness of Injuries and First Aid


© Henrike Laing

A resuscitation during a match of the Dutch league Eredivisie last Saturday, shocked the national football world and is raising questions of how amateur clubs are prepared for critical medical incidents.

The Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB) obliges every amateur club to have sufficient and ready-to-use first aid facilities on spot, but there is no obligation to have first-aiders at matches, only a recommendation. In contrast, higher league clubs are required to have doctors present.

Fast and professional first aid action was proven essential in sports when on Saturday the RKC Waalwijk goalkeeper, Etienne Vaessen, collided with an opponent of Ajax Amsterdam. Vaessen remained motionless on the ground. Medical personnel rushed to resuscitate and took care of him until he finally regained consciousness.


Many football fans and players saw the images of the serious injury happening to Vaessen. “You know, that is the worst nightmare of any goalkeeper,” says Sebastiaan Meijwaard (24), goalkeeper at Groningen’s Groen Geel. What Vaessen experienced could have happened to him the same way, he says.


The player is recovering, his club reports. However, past cases show that soccer injuries can cause lasting effects such as brain damage without quick and correct first aid.


“It is the risk of playing football"

“To be honest, there is in amateur football even more chance to have such an injury,” Meijwaard says. He thinks players in lower leagues have less control of their actions and, without cameras, players also behave more recklessly.

During the matches of Groen Geel, physiotherapists with a first-aid diploma are present. “But I wouldn’t be too happy to know that someone so unexperienced is the one who has to give me first aid in such serious situations,” Meijwaard says.

Doctors at the side of the field would make Meijwaard feel safer, he states. However, he says it is obvious that there are not enough doctors for everyone playing football in the Netherlands. “It is the risk of playing football.”


Goalkeeper Sebastiaan Meijwaard says the risk of serious injuries is part of football but he calls for more awareness work. ©Jan Schuil

However, Meijwaard also works as a trainer and stresses that there should be more awareness among staff and players on head injuries as well as incidents such as a swallowed tongue. “Every player should know what has to happen. That would be good. Because there is no awareness now.”

The KNVB is currently operating in this direction as the club works along with the UEFA-campaign “Saving a life”, which focuses on raising training and education on cardiopulmonary resuscitation in the football world.

“This program will be launched this season, also in the amateur football in The Netherlands,” KNVB spokesperson Bram Groom tells The Groninger on request. The KNVB is set to collaborate with ‘De Nederlandse Reanimatie Raad’, a Dutch Resuscitation Council.

Whether local football clubs in Groningen are planning new ways of dealing with injury awareness and first aid procedures is still unknown. The Groninger has requested a statement from multiple amateur clubs around the city but has received no reply yet.

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