Recently, an unfortunate event happened in Egypt. AUC Titans player - Omar "Jumbo" Khaled, has passed away during the game. His death has caused a lot of stir between the teams and universities.
We reached out to Titans Head coach Terry Bates, as well as the league president Ali Rafeek, and last but not least - a few doctors who were willing to give us their professional opinion based on the information we have.
- Omar was complaining of chest pains early during the 1st quarter. He then left the game and was escorted into the AUC clinic where he passed out and fell into a comma. He was pronounced dead 2 hours later with no cause of death since Muslim countries do not perform autopsy.
The cause of his initial injury is still debatable as well, but his health previous to the game was fine. During the game he did not take any major blows that caused the game to stop play. However; there were players who stated he took a blow to the chest from an opposing players helmet. After the blow to the chest, he was able to walk off the field under his own will and it didn't seem severe at the time. - says Coach Bates, and continues:
- The doctor did not allow him back on the field, but from what I understand also did not take Omar's complaint very seriously. The other AUC players who were present at the time he went to the clinic stated they (clinic) told him it was only a bruise and that he may be exaggerating about the severity of the injury which seems to be quite common in Egypt.
We asked coach Bates if there was any footage available and he responded: We do have footage of the game, but unfortunately the cameraman didn't make it to the game until shortly after Omar's injury... Afterwards, the league and the university cancelled all football related activities for 2 weeks. After the "FOOTBALL WITHOUT BOARDERS" camp hosted by a few NFL players, the league decided to resume football activities, but AUC decided against allowing us to use the schools field for practice or games.
They (AUC) has since decided we can continue to use the name (AUC), but we cannot use the school facilities. Since American Football in Egypt is not like the NCAA; the team is only "sponsored" by the university and not affiliated with the school as is the case in America.
And that wasn't the only problem for football - possible legal actions may be taken by parents. Football is now looked at as the enemy, where the most popular sport in Egypt is MMA.
- I do understand that certain parents are filing legal actions against the school. However; I can't speak on those cases as there still pending and I have no knowledge of the specifics. I can say that MMA is definitely a major sport in Egypt as well as Rugby and Soccer and both sports have there fair share of injuries so it's less about contact sports and more about Egyptian culture not being familiar with American football in my own humble opinion. - says coach Bates.
As we did our research as well, we did notice Omar was a bit overweight for his height. Luckily, coach Bates agreed to answer our question whether Omar's physical condition may have been a possible cause, even-though we understand that coaches can't do a lot to influence amateur players to accept bigger changes:
- Omar was dedicated to the sport and tried his hardest compete on the field. However; like many others in Egypt, this country struggles with obesity problems. I wanted the entire team to transition to a more holistic diet! I've been vegan for the past 6 years and I've seen a drastic change in my over all health. Unfortunately, the sport isn't controlled by the coaches the way it is in America, so my influence over the totality of my players lifestyle is limited, which I hope is something that will change over the upcoming years.
On the medical side of things, Omar's death could have been caused by a variety of factors, where the hit is the least possible cause. Even if so - doctors could (should) have noticed and recognized the symptoms. However, the professional opinions we've received all agree on a few things - heart failure as a result of undiscovered congenital heart dysfunction, heart failure as a result of a coxsackie virus infection, or, rhythm dysfunction as a result of self medication/supplements. Naturally, obesity is also one of the big risk factors.
After such a big loss, the league and teams are coming together to deal with the situation. Coach Bates says that everyone is working together to make sure something like this doesn't happen again.
- Teams are dealing with the situation as best as possible. We've all (ALL TEAMS IN THE EFAF) have had to adjust our practice as well as game schedules in order to accommodate the bye weeks but the teams and the league has been great with making the new schedule as fair as possible for all parties involved. We've had about a dozen players parents remove them from the team but we're successful in recruiting new players. Despite the tragic incident, prior to Omar's injury, we have several AUC students who had the opportunity to witness their 1st American Football game in person and fell in love with the sports! So, although some players quit the team, several AUC students were eager to join as they saw the sports as extremely exciting and are now active members
The league has been very proactive with the safety regulations since the incident including checking for mouth guards and mouth pieces on each and every player before every game as well as a moment of silence to honor Omar before every kickoff.
First we are including a waiver to be signed by all players stating they understand American Football is a contact sport and must take full precautions. Second, we're adding conditioning test very similar to those colleges use in America to judge the overall fitness level of potential players. Third, we are making sure that ambulances are present the entire duration of competition and if the medical staff is absent or leaves during the duration of the game then the game will be canceled until the proper medical staff is present.
We also wanted to hear from the league, as we have heard a rumor that league rules didn't have the physical as a must-do during players registration. Mr Ali Rafeek, Egyptian Federation of American Football president, agreed to address the rumors.
- The disaster happened with the college that they supposed they have already finished the checkups but we discovered it was only paperwork and not implemented on real.
All current team members were required finishing their relevant physical examination in order to carry on playing for their respective teams, also all teams are required to have an assigned medical doctor to whom players can report to for any queries and/or concerns.
All players were required to have annual check-ups maximum by the end of January of every year to take part in the team practices and league. Any player failing to do so will be prohibited from taking part in the year’s events.
Regarding the steps league is taking, Mr Rafeek said that an ambulance with a qualified paramedic will be present in all EFAF-affiliated events and league games.
- We stopped the league and made another medical checkups and provided one doctor for every team from our side.
We wanted to do this story to bring awareness on how important it is to make sure your health comes first - not just in this sport, but any other as well. TDEU sends deepest condolences to Omar's family and his team - AUC Titans.