January 17, 2012

Stampedes and Heatstroke are the Leading Cause of Death at Gatherings

(Ivanhoe Newswire) — Touchdown; score; it´s good! Next, comes the high-fives; the chest bumps, and chants. Every year, all over the world, millions of people flock to stadiums, packing them beyond capacity to cheer on their favorite team. Some experience the thrill of victory, others defeat, but the unfortunate ones get something else. Non-communicable diseases and injuries are the leading cause of death and illness at mass gatherings (MGs) and a major public-health problem.

Robert Steffen from the University of Zurich in Switzerland, and colleagues´ research highlights the large gaps in understanding non-communicable health risks during MGs and a lack of evidence in which public-health interventions work best. Steffen was quoted as staying, "Strategies for government preparedness and those of various international agencies have focused mainly on the risks of communicable diseases because of their potentially huge consequences, and less on documenting the risks introduced by non-communicable diseases."

Human stampedes and heatstroke are the main reason for loss of life at mass gatherings. Over the past 30 years, human stampedes and crush injuries have resulted in more than 7000 deaths and 14,000 casualties across the globe. During the 1985 Hajj, 2000 cases of heatstroke were reported, resulting in more than 1000 deaths.

Steffen and his colleagues found that minor traumatic injuries and medical complaints including cuts, sprains, and headaches are the main causes of illness at MGs and that this evidence presents a need for onsite medical care.

The authors note that the diversity of non-communicable risk, ranging from illness relating to drug and alcohol use to terrorism, present complex public health challenges for health systems and the organizers of events attended by MGs, which is why in their research they identified a number of efficient interventions that could possibly lower risk, such as informing MGs of the potential dangers of heatstroke and how to prevent it; learning proper crowd control to reduce the risks of stampedes; and developing effective models for the prediction of onsite emergency medical care.

"Until appropriate models are developed and successfully tested, most of the medical requirements will still be based on historical date that are specific to each event. No one-size fits all solution exist for the mitigation of risks from non-communicable diseases at MGs. However, new rigorous research into the factors that increase the risks and best practices in the mitigation of those risks would contribute greatly to further understanding the complex dynamics of MGs," said Steffen and his team.

SOURCE: Lancet, January 2012