Footballer dies after collapse during practice

Gerome Graham 14 June 2012 main

A 20-year-old footballer inexplicably collapsed Tuesday night during practice in Bodden Town and 
later died.  

Gerome Graham, a long-time Bodden Town Football Club team member and a one-time member of the Cayman Islands national team, was taken to hospital by ambulance and has since been pronounced dead, according to Sports and Health Minister Mark Scotland.  

Gerome’s coach, Elbert McLean, confirmed his death Wednesday morning. Mr. McLean said the team wasn’t actually having an official practice Tuesday night, just “a little kick around” at the Haig Bodden 
Football Field.  

“We won’t know what happened until a postmortem is conducted,” Mr. McLean said, indicating he expected that procedure to be completed sometime on Wednesday, although a report on it might not be issued until next week. The coach declined to say anything further Wednesday: “Today’s just not a good day”.  

Minister Scotland, who is also the Bodden Town Football Club president, said he was stunned by Gerome’s sudden passing.  

“I’ve known Gerome since he was a little boy,” said Mr. Scotland, who has been involved with the Bodden Town Football Club for the last 25 years. “He’s never had any health problems, that I know of.”  

Mr. Scotland said he had been contact with Mr. Graham’s family and had passed along his condolences. The health minister said he had received no reports as to why the youngster had suddenly collapsed on the pitch, which is next to the Bodden Town Police Station.  

“I know Gerome extremely well, and he’s one of the fittest members of the Bodden Town team,” Mr. Scotland said of the midfielder.  

Stephen Duval, emergency medical services director at the Health Services Authority, said he had received reports from staff that Gerome was playing football and “just went unconscious and suddenly collapsed” around 7.40pm Tuesday.  

Mr. Duval said an ambulance just happened to be in the vicinity and responded quickly.  

Health Services Authority Acting Chief Medical Officer Delroy Jefferson said Wednesday that doctors wouldn’t know precisely what happened until the post-mortem results were recevied. However, Dr. Jefferson noted that, in general, such incidents in young athletes were often brought on by ‘cardiac dysrhythmia” or an irregular heart beat.  

“This is something that can happen and usually its something that has to do with cardiac,” Dr. Jefferson said. “Something just precipitates an abnormal heartbeat.”  


Sudden deaths  

There has been plenty of international publicity surrounding the deaths or near-deaths of football players and other athletes in recent years.  

Italian football matches were postponed two months ago after club side Livorno’s Piermario Morosini, 25, collapsed and died on the field during a match in Pescara.  

Fabrice Muamba, 23, of Bolton Wanderers collapsed during a game in March and had actually stopped breathing for a time before physicians managed to revive him.  

Spanish football star Antonio Puerta, 23, died in 2007 of heart defects when playing in La Liga for Sevilla.  

Athletes in other sports have died from sudden collapse, mainly due to heart conditions, including University of Minnesota American football player Gary Tinsley, who died at home two months ago; baseball pitcher Joe Kennedy, 28, died from heart failure; Jason Collier, the Atlanta Hawks 7-foot basketball centre died at 28 from stoppage of an enlarged heart; and Denver Broncos running back Damien Nash, 24, died from heart failure in 2007.  

Having an enlarged heart is a major cause of sudden death among young athletes and sports experts say better screening is needed. However, the procedure is often considered cost prohibitive.  

Minister Scotland said Gerome’s death served as a reminder of how important routine health checks are, even for younger people.  

“You can’t be too young for these health checks,” Mr. Scotland said. 

Gerome Graham 11 March 2012

Gerome durnig a March FA Cup match. Photo: Ron Shillingford


  1. My sincere condolences to the family of the late Gerome Graham. He mostly likely died of a cardiac arrhythmia from an undiagnosed congential heart condition known as HCM( Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy).An Echocardiogram is usually the gold standard used in detecting this potentially lethal heart condition.

  2. Here is another unfortunate loss of a young life, albeit by unforeseen circumstances.

    This incident emphasises the importance of further professional development in Cayman’s football structure.

    The game in Cayman simply cannot continue along the purely amateur lines that it developed as over the years, or the risk of something like this happening again is very high.

    Minister Scotland, as a former footballer himself and a lover of the game and club president, as well as the Minister of Health can be a leader in this area.

    He can convince C.I.F.A. that it is imperative that all football clubs arrange to have these health checks for all their registered players conducted and any player failing a fitness/health check be given the necessary medical attention before being allowed to continue to play football.

    This is mandatory in the countries where professional football is the norm and is mandatory even in the higher levels of amateur football in these countries.

    It cannot be left to the player’s discretion or at their expense, to have these checks done; every single senior footballer in Cayman, male and female, should not be allowed to play without a medical certificate of fitness.

    Hopefully these checks will turn up any or most heart defects that they can; they will never be able to detect them all.

    With CIFA’s president, Jeffrey Webb, as the president of FIFA’s largest regional confederation, CONCACAF, the game in Cayman simply cannot continue the way it has.

    Maybe the tragedy of this young footballer’s death will convince Cayman’s football community of the need for advancement; hopefully Mr. Webb and Mr. Scotland will be listening.

  3. So sad. My sympathy to this family, may his soul rest in peace.May his family be comforted in this hour of bereavement.
    Could the Minister for Education and Health consult each other on the subject of physical checkups for any of these young fitness or sports athletes in government and private schools?,
    Is routine physical checkups a comprehensive requirement, and if not,how soon will it be implemented and regulated to save lives? Generally, a medical /physical is requred for students or anyone desiring to play or involved in sports.
    The Cayman Islands Government must do its part to save the lives of our young people; in regulating schools as well as private fitness and sports businesses and organizations. Any response from the Minister of Health?

  4. Those that are calling for health testing like they do in the pros.. do you realise there are many professionals and internationals that have collapsed and some that have passed due to similar conditions…

  5. And many that have been saved, due to these mandatory tests for footballers.

    I work for Wolverhampton Wanderers FC, a club just relegated from the English Premiereship and…

    Just a season ago, we had a young player that was found to have a heart defect after mandatory testing; he had to retire from football and the club lost a player..,

    But his life was saved.

    Ignore this young player’s death at your peril…

    Those of you who have fought and continue to fight the professionalisation of football in Cayman.

  6. This is so tragic and condolences to the young mans family.

    I agree with Fiery – this death may have been preventable.

    No one suddenly has a cardia arrest…theres always a reason for it. Mostly undiagnosed it seems, but nevertheless theres a reason.

    I am not a professional athlete but i do love being active and keeping fit. I am fairly young (early 30’s) and from the looks of it am in great physical condition.

    However I went for a routine physical and had a slightly elevated blood pressure reading which was odd after doing several tests to find out the cause of the BP spike, I was given an ecg / ekg to simple rule out any cardiac issue. Surprise Surprise, the ecg found out i had a Prolonged QT Interval. This PQT interval is a fairly common but undiagnosed disease. Mainly hereditary but sometimes causes by organ issues or even some meds. I am not on meds and all tests came back showing healthy organs. My case seems to be hereditary of which no one in my family seems to have any idea of it.

    PQT can lead to arrythmia which is set off by intense sporting activities that pushes the body and in turn this leads to sudden cardiac arrest. Bottom line…i could be out doing a marathon and just drop dead. Simple as that.

    You don’t have to be a professional athlete to suddenly have a cardiac arrest. You could be a normal person who is not overweight, in great physical condition on the outside but still have a genetic flaw.

    For me, i have changed my lifestyle sports to eliminate extreme sports like marathons but still continue to keep active with light swimming, walking etc.

    It does not hurt to simple ask your doc on the next visit to do a 20 minute ecg / ekg test…it might save your life or a loved one if you know whats goign on.

  7. Sadly, I have experienced a similar loss in my family and my sincere condolences go out to Gerome’s family.

    In our case an apparently prefectly healthy cousin, who was in his early 20s, a serving member of London Fire Brigade and an outstanding all round sportsman, was suddenly taken ill and died shortly afterwards from what turned out to be a congenital heart problem. Before being accepted for training as a fire officer he had undergone an extensive medical examination that had shown nothing wrong. The subsequent investigation found nothing wrong with the medical testing and as far as I know no changes were found to be necessary as a result of his death.

    His Father was Jamaican and his Mother, one of my Father’s younger sisters, died a few years later from the same condition, which is terminal and apparently completely untreatable.

    Firey, you can do all the non-invasive tests in the world but there are things that will not be uncovered. In my cousin’s case only a myocardial biopsy would have detected the problem and that is not exactly a risk free – my Father (who passed away some years ago) went into cardiac arrest and nearly died during this procedure while only in his early 50s.

    I think we just have to accept that things like this are tragic but they are going to happen. A knee-jerk reaction involving the introduction of a battery of mostly pointless medical tests is simply going to put teenagers off choosing sporting options in the future and that is no way to respect the memory of this young man.

  8. Those that are calling for health testing like they do in the pros.. do you realise there are many professionals and internationals that have collapsed and some that have passed due to similar conditions..


    The above comment is one of the least understandable I’ve ever read; maybe the writer might wish to elaborate a little ?

    Since the death of Mark-Anthony Foe, the captain of Cameroon’s national team, the spectre of heart related collapses has haunted football…and proven only too real.

    There have been a number of players collapsing on the field and dying since Foe’s death, both in professional and amateur football…the most recent being Fabrice Muamba, in England, who luckily survived.

    And yes, all the tests done on these players did not show any problems…

    Which is why it is important for the countries that do not haave testing try to catch up with the countries that do; for exactly the reasons you have stated, to detect the ones that you can early and save their lives.

    Its not a football thing.

    Why footballers have been dying is that the modern game, at every adult level has become a faster, more athletic game that puts more strain on the body and heart; if the defect is there, the player is at huge risk of death.

    My condolences go out to this lad’s family, his friends and teammates…and his football family…Cayman’s football community, who I’m sure will suffer his loss and miss him dearly.

    My comments have been my way of doing my own little bit to make sure they don’t lose another.

  9. John

    In all my comments, I’ve made it quite clear that any number of tests might not show a defect, at any level, athlete or non-athlete and also that testing athletes, such as footballers, has turned up defects that needed to be treated…and preventitive measures taken to save a person’s life.

    My comments were made in the context of football…a sport I’ve played at a high level and am still employed in today…at the highest level…in England, where the development of safety and medical treatment for players…and spectators…is the highest anywhere in the world.

    It was the St. Johns Ambulance para-medics that saved Fabrice Muamba’s life at Tottenham…a match and incident we were all watching with horror and hope that Muamba would not die; I’m speaking only of the football community now…their response was only one part of an entire system that is in place to safeguard players’ health…and that system includes medical tests for fitness to play football.

    My comments are nothing that CIFA should not now be responsibly reviewing, in the event of this young player collapsing and dying, while playing football.

    How could this be termed a knee-jerk reaction ?

    The truth is, countries like the Cayman Islands slips under FIFA’s radar screen for many areas of developed football because they are considered so amateur that no attention is paid to some very important issues.

    There is absoultely excuse for players health and safety to be one of those issues…

    This is an issue for Mr. Webb to address and I hope that for the football players sake in Cayman…

    That he does.

  10. A typo here…

    This sentence should have read, there is absolutely NO excuse for players health and safety to be one of those issues.

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