Ryan Gayler stands holding a football. He performed first aid when two football players collided during a match

Up and down the country, people are buzzing with excitement and anticipation – the football season is back.

And while the professionals battle to climb the league tables, we’re enjoying a kickabout, too. Football is part of the weekly routine for over 1.6 million people in England alone.*

Ryan Gayler manages AFC Vardeanians Football Club in Sussex. When his son organised a last-minute friendly between the players from the club, Ryan turned up to watch. He’d hoped to show off his own footy skills with a few minutes of play time towards the end.

But 20 minutes into the match, a head clash stopped play. Ryan was called upon for a different set of skills – first aid.

A clash of heads

“The goalkeeper had his eye on the ball, the centre forward from the other team had his eye on the ball, and both of them went for it mid-air and collided,” Ryan explained.

The impact left the centre forward with a bleeding cut over his eye and the keeper had taken a bad hit to the side of his head.

Fortunately Ryan knew what to do having learnt first aid at work with the British Red Cross.

Football first aid

A spectator applied pressure to the centre forward’s wound to stop the bleeding. Meanwhile Ryan knelt down to take a closer look at the keeper as his son phoned for an ambulance.

“He was motionless and completely unresponsive,” Ryan said.

“I checked for signs of breathing and couldn’t see or feel any. I was worried that his tongue had fallen back and could be blocking his airway.

“I tilted his head back to open his airway. I was seconds away from thinking: ‘This is it’ but then he took a huge gulp of air before starting to breathe shallowly.”

Once he was breathing, Ryan rolled the keeper on his side and tilted his head back. Ryan knew this position would help him to continue breathing.

“Slowly, he began to come around but he was in a completely confused state of mind,” Ryan said.

“He was trying to ask where he was and what had happened, and I was trying to comfort him in that respect, letting him know he was ok.”

“We didn’t have an ice pack or cold press to hand unfortunately, but I knew the paramedics would apply one to his head when they arrived.”

False alarm

When the paramedics arrived they questioned the keeper to assess the impact of the injury. There was a moment of uncertainty when it came to a question about the keeper’s birthday.

“The paramedics asked him when his birthday was and he replied with 25 December,” Ryan said.

“We were a bit worried as we thought he was getting this confused with Christmas, but we checked with one of his mates and he was actually born on Christmas day – so that was a relief!”

Both players were taken to hospital for further treatment. The centre forward needed stiches, but other than that both were ok.

Ryan is pleased his first aid knowledge was able to help: “I felt like it really helped me stay calm in a tough situation. I’ve had a lot of people come up to thank me for taking action.”

Up Your Game

Bumps, knocks and falls go hand-in-hand with sporting activities – no matter what level you are at.

And while 89 per cent of footballers think sportspeople have a responsibility to look after each other, almost half would not have the confidence to help their teammates in a first aid emergency.

That’s why we’ve launched Up Your Game – a new campaign to encourage all you sporty people alike to learn first aid.

Backed by Brooking

Sir Trevor Brooking with British Red Cross first aid trainer Tracey Taylor.

Even football greats like Sir Trevor Brooking – former West Ham and England player – are getting involved. He recently learnt first aid with the Red Cross and is a supporter of the campaign:

“Taking part in this first aid session brought back the stark memory of watching the match when Fabrice Muamba had a cardiac arrest on the pitch.

“Fabrice was so lucky that he had trained medical professionals around him who helped to save his life. At a community level this often isn’t the case.

“Having learnt first aid it’s really made me realise how important it is to know what to do when any injury happens,” said Trevor.

Find out how you can Up Your Game by learning some simple first aid skills.

Read more

*Figures from Sport England