Referee saves Vietnamese footballer’s life

By Duc Dong, Ngoc Hai   May 6, 2019 | 08:54 pm PT
Referee saves Vietnamese footballer’s life
Referee Ngo Duy Lan (yellow) lets Nguyen Hung Thien Duc bite his hand to prevent him from swallowing his tongue after the player had a collision during a V-League match in Go Dau Stadium in the southern Binh Duong Province, May 5, 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Dong
When a player suffered a life-threatening brain injury, the referee let him bite his hand as emergency first aid.

Nguyen Hung Thien Duc suffered a sickening injury on Sunday afternoon during a V. League 1 match between Becamex Binh Duong FC and Hanoi FC in Go Dau Stadium in the southern Binh Duong Province.

After a strong collision in the air with Hanoi FC’s Pape Omar, Binh Duong’s Duc was dazed and showed signs of losing consciousness. He sat on the field without responding.

Realizing how dangerous the situation was, referee Ngo Duy Lan stopped the game immediately and called out to the medical team.

While the players were panicking, Lan laid Duc down gently to avoid any shock and put one hand between Duc’s jaws to prevent any tongue biting or swallowing that could endanger his life.

He kept his hand despite being bitten hard, until the medical team came and put Duc on the stretcher.

"When he showed some unusual signs, I had to intervene immediately. I just followed my instinct. I have witnessed a similar situation before in another tournament. FIFA has also trained referees like me on how to deal such a situation," Lan told VnExpress.

Two players after the collision. Pape Omar got up right after that but Nguyen Hung Thien Duc was unconcious and referee Ngo Duy Lan had to lay him down. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Dong.

Nguyen Hung Thien Duc (R) and Pape Omar fall after a collision. Omar got up soon after but Duc showed signs of being dazed and losing consciousness. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Dong

Lan’s action was praised by fans and the community at large. He’s one of the few FIFA-licensed referees in Vietnam. Last year, he won the V. League Golden Whistle award for being the best referee in the season.

Lan also got a helping hand when Hanoi FC captain Nguyen Thanh Luong took his captain’s armband off and put it between Duc’s jaws.

"I saw Duc lose control and felt like I had to do something right at that moment to save him. It can be very dangerous if we’re slow to act in this situation. The football world has seen many players who’ve swallowed their tongue when they fainted, and it can be a threat to their life," Luong said.

Duc was rushed to the hospital for treatment. He is now in a stable condition and allowed to go home on Monday. But he cannot go back to training yet after such injury.

"The doctors did a scan on him and concluded that  Duc suffered a brain concussion and his temple was sunken. Fortunately, the sunken place on his temple started returning to its normal state," said Le Hong Cuong, General Director of Binh Duong FC.

Duc is a young talent who was called up to play for the U22 team of Vietnam in the U22 AFF Cup in 2019, where Vietnam reached the semi-finals.

There have been several similar instances in the past where lives have been saved by quick action, as also cases where players have lost their lives after not receiving timely first aid.

Normally, it’s impossible for a person to swallow their tongue. But when a person loses consciousness or suffers a seizure after a collision, they tend to lose muscle control and their tongue will not be in the right place, as it can block their airway and prevent them from breathing.

Famous players like Fernando Torres and Martin Skrtel have been knocked out on the field after heavy collisions. They were also saved by teammates who put their hands in and lifted the injured players’ tongues from the back of the throat.

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