Feigning injuries ‘can be lethal’

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World Cup final referee Howard Webb - who has applauded The Star’s campaign to provide defibrillators at grassroots grounds- has stepped into the debate over health concerns for footballers at the highest level of the game.

Rotherham’s Webb is urging players to stop faking injuries because it could jeopardise treatment for others who suffer cardiac arrests.

Webb’s speedy reaction when Fabrice Muamba collapsed in March helped the Bolton midfielder get treatment which saved his life. No such treatment was available for Dronfield referee Roger Evans, who died at a game in South Normanton on March 24.

Referees’ responses could be affected if players “cry wolf” too often, Webb told a FIFA medical conference. Players who are not seriously injured sometimes seek a tactical edge by staying down longer than necessary to slow the game, the ref said. He asked “everybody in football to think about these situations and ask players not to take advantage.”

Muamba’s recovery after his heart stopped beating on its own for 78 minutes is “an unbelievable miracle,” Webb said.

FIFA say 84 players have died after heart attacks over the last five years.