In November 2021, rumors claiming that an unusual number of athletes had fainted or collapsed in the last year were widely circulated online. These rumors were often accompanied by fear-mongering captions that warned people against receiving COVID-19 vaccines.
The following video, for example, was accompanied by messages such as “Not normal … Boost at your own [peril],” “#ATHLETES IN ALL SPORTS ARE DROPPING DEAD AND THE MASTERS FORCE VACCINES ON US ALL,” and “Vaccines dropping them daily. Sick world.”
This video does not show vaccine injuries or people fainting due to the COVID-19 vaccine.
While this video shows real incidents from 2021, none of these incidents have been connected to the COVID-19 vaccine, other plausible explanations (such as dehydration or heat exhaustion) have been offered for these incidents, and a few of the clips in this video show athletes who were not vaccinated. There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine has resulted in an increase in fainting incidents.
The above-displayed video features seven fainting incidents. We’ve been able to source six of the seven clips. None of the fainting incidents we were able to find more information on were caused by the COVID-19 vaccine.
Here’s what these clips show, starting with the first one:
Christian Eriksen Collapses During Euro 2020 in June 2021
The first clip shows Denmark’s Christian Eriksen collapsing during the Euro 2020 in June 2021 after suffering a cardiac arrest. While this incident has been used by anti-vaxxers to stir up fear over the COVID-19 vaccine, Eriksen was not vaccinated.
Inter Milan team director Giuseppe Marotta said: “He didn’t have COVID and wasn’t vaccinated either.”
Cricket Players Chinelle Henry and Chedean Nation
The second clip shows Chinelle Henry and Chedean Nation, two West Indies cricket players who fainted during a match in July 2021. While both players were taken off the field in stretchers, neither required hospitalization.
While an exact cause for this incident was not given, labeling this a vaccine injury is pure speculation. Furthermore, both players returned to the field a few days later to compete.
Both players had collapsed on the field in separate incidents during the second T20I on Friday, but were back with the team on Sunday, the day of the third game.
In separate messages posted on Twitter, both said they didn’t have any hospital stay or restrictions imposed on them.
“I just want to thank you guys for all your concern and well wishes, and I am doing well. No hospital stay, no restrictions. Now I’m just focused on going out there and getting the series 3-nil,” Henry said.
Footballer Moussa Dembele Collapses During Training
The third clip shows Moussa Dembele, a striker for Atletico Madrid, who collapsed during training in March 2021. Diario AS reported that Dembele fainted after a “sudden drop in blood pressure” but that there were no other complications. Dembele was not hospitalized and after being examined by the team’s doctors drove his own car home from the field.
There’s no evidence that this incident was related to a COVID-19 vaccine. It’s worth noting, however, that Dembele tested positive for COVID-19 a month before this incident. Goal.com reported:
The former Lyon forward is the fourth player with the Liga leaders to have to self-isolate, and could miss the Champions League clash with Chelsea
Atletico Madrid have received their second coronavirus blow in as many days after striker Moussa Dembele tested positive, following team-mate Joao Felix.
Jack Draper Faints from Apparent Heat Exhaustion
The fourth clip shows Jack Draper, a young British tennis player, suffering from a bout of heat exhaustion at the Miami Open in March 2021. As was the case with Dembele above, it’s possible that COVID-19, not a COVID-19 vaccine, contributed to this medical episode.
Draper said that he was diagnosed with coronavirus in January and that the lingering effects of the disease, in addition to the heat, may have contributed to his collapse. Draper said:
“I was out for two weeks with COVID in January … I didn’t move a muscle and that was after pre-season as well, so I put in a really good pre-season and then I didn’t play so it’s been a rough start to the year […]
I got it, it’s obviously an extremely aggressive virus and you can catch it from anywhere, but I got it and it did affect me quite badly for seven days. I had bad symptoms and then I recovered pretty quickly from there, but it definitely had an effect on me.
I’ve put in loads of great training since then, so it’s no excuse, but did it have an effect on me at the time? Probably. With a lot of these things you don’t know how much it really affects you.”
The fifth clip in this video is the one we know the least about. It doesn’t appear to be a professional badminton event. Rather, this clip appears to come from a security camera at a recreational facility.
Project Comprova, a collaboration of more than a dozen news outlets around Brazil, found that this video was likely shot somewhere in Malaysia. Little is known about this incident at the time, however, so we can’t say exactly what happened here. What we can say, however, is that those claiming that this shows a “vaccine injury” are doing so without evidence.
Ghanaian Ref Charles Bulu Faints from Heat
The sixth clip shows Charles Bulu, a Ghanaian referee, collapsing in March 2021 during the final minutes of an Africa Cup match between Cote d’Ivoire and Ethiopia. Goal.com reported that Bulu was initially appointed as the fourth official, but had to step in as the main referee after a colleague tested positive for COVID-19.
Bulu, who was treated at a hospital according to the Ghana Football Association, told the Daily Graphic, a Ghanaian newspaper, that the incident was related to a poor diet, a lack of sleep, dehydration, and excessive heat:
I didn’t eat quite well both at breakfast and lunch, hoping that I would rather take in some banana just before the game, only to arrive at the Match Officials’ dressing room to realise that no such provision had been made, despite we requesting for it.
I could not take in as much water as my body needed and with the heat and intensity of the game, I began feeling dehydrated by the 68th minute, but unfortunately, there was no Fourth Referee to step in.
I was hoping I could hold on till the next water break which was around the 75th minute, but before then I just blacked out.
NCAA Referee Bert Smith Collapses During March Madness
The final clip in this video compilation shows Bert Smith as he collapsed during a March Madness game in April 2021. Smith was taken off the floor on a stretcher but he didn’t require immediate hospitalization. Hours later, as a precaution, Smith decided to visit a hospital, fearing that he may have a concussion. While smith did not have a concussion, the doctors did find that he had a blood clot.
The Indy Star reported that Smith was put on blood thinners and was released a few days later. It’s unclear what caused the blood clot, but Smith did test positive for COVID-19 a few months earlier.
Smith was admitted into Methodist and put on blood thinners. Two days later, clot gone, he was discharged. Where did it come from? Nobody can say. Smith tested positive for the coronavirus in August, but doctors can’t say whether there’s a correlation between COVID-19 and his blood clot.
Are an Unusual Number of Athletes Fainting?
An athlete fainting is not a particularly rare occurrence. According to The Athletic, a player faints on the football pitch every four days. But is the problem getting worse due to COVID-19?
While the above-displayed video does not show athletes who fainted or collapsed from the COVID-19 vaccine, it does show various athletes fainting in 2021. There’s not enough evidence to say whether or not fainting incidents are becoming more common due to the pandemic, but here are a few things to consider.
First, people infected by COVID-19 may experience “long Covid,” or lingering symptoms from the disease after the initial infection subsides. These symptoms may include shortness of breath, fatigue, and heart palpitations. Second, one of the rare side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine is Myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the British regulator for drugs and vaccines, told Reuters that this is a rare side effect and its symptoms are often mild.
“Myocarditis or pericarditis remains a very rare potential risk with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, and the events reported are typically mild with individuals usually recovering within a short time with standard treatment and rest. The current evidence does not suggest that sporting exercise is a contributing risk for these very rare events.”
Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, told the Telegraph that athletes diagnosed with COVID-19 are at a greater risk of having a heart condition than those who get the COVID-19 vaccine:
“Whilst vaccine induced myocarditis has been reported in children and young adults following the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, it’s actually quite rare … The risk of myocarditis, myocarditis-type injury to the heart, or other cardiovascular complications is much greater if you get Covid-19. That’s why it’s important to avoid Covid-19, and the best way to do that is to stay up-to-date with your vaccine doses.
At the moment, there’s not enough evidence to suggest any connection between COVID-19, or COVID-19 vaccines, and an increase in fainting incidents. When Reuters asked FIFA about this rumor, the soccer organization said that it was not “aware of a rise in episodes of cardiac arrests” and that there had not been any cases “flagged in relation to individuals receiving a COVID vaccine.”
Association, Ghana Football. Public Announcement: Referee Charles Bulu Is Doing Well. https://www.ghanafa.org/public-announcement-referee-charles-bulu-is-doing-well. Accessed 30 Nov. 2021.
“British Teenager Jack Draper Collapses with Apparent Heat Exhaustion at Miami Open.” Sky Sports, https://www.skysports.com/tennis/news/12110/12256229/british-teenager-jack-draper-collapses-with-apparent-heat-exhaustion-at-miami-open. Accessed 30 Nov. 2021.
Charles Bulu: Referee in Stable Condition after Collapsing during Cote d’Ivoire versus Ethiopia Match | Goal.Com. https://www.goal.com/en/news/charles-bulu-fifa-referee-in-stable-condition-after/140om1o7bbfd41r6tnuue97tra. Accessed 30 Nov. 2021.
—. https://www.goal.com/en/news/charles-bulu-fifa-referee-in-stable-condition-after/140om1o7bbfd41r6tnuue97tra. Accessed 30 Nov. 2021.
“Chinelle Henry, Chedean Nation Taken to Hospital after Collapsing during West Indies-Pakistan Women’s T20I.” ESPNcricinfo, https://www.espncricinfo.com/story/wi-vs-pak-2nd-women-s-t20-chinelle-henry-chedean-nation-taken-to-hospital-after-collapsing-during-match-1268505. Accessed 30 Nov. 2021.
“Dembélé sufre un desmayo durante el entrenamiento.” AS.com, 23 Mar. 2021, https://as.com/futbol/2021/03/23/primera/1616520284_574257.html.
“Fact Check-No Evidence COVID-19 Vaccines Are Linked to Athletes Collapsing or Dying from Myocarditis.” Reuters, 29 Nov. 2021. www.reuters.com, https://www.reuters.com/article/factcheck-coronavirus-sport-idUSL1N2SK160.
“—.” Reuters, 29 Nov. 2021. www.reuters.com, https://www.reuters.com/article/factcheck-coronavirus-sport-idUSL1N2SK160.
“I’m Fully Fit and Back on Duty – Referee Bulu.” Graphic Online, https://www.graphic.com.gh/sports/sports-news/i-m-fully-fit-and-back-on-duty-referee-bulu.html. Accessed 30 Nov. 2021.
“Inter Director Says Eriksen Did Not Have COVID and Was Not Vaccinated.” Reuters, 13 June 2021, https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/eriksens-former-cardiologist-says-he-had-no-history-heart-concerns-2021-06-13/.
Millar, Colin. “Moussa Dembele Returns to Atletico Madrid Training Days after Collapsing.” Football Espana, 26 Mar. 2021, https://www.football-espana.net/2021/03/26/moussa-dembele-returns-to-atletico-madrid-training-days-after-collapsing.
Morgan, Tom. “Covid a More Likely Cause of Surge in Footballers Collapsing with Heart Problems than Vaccines, Scientists Believe.” The Telegraph, 26 Nov. 2021. www.telegraph.co.uk, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/football/2021/11/26/scientists-rebuff-irresponsible-claims-pundits-say-covid-likely/.
“Moussa Dembele: Atletico Madrid Striker Collapses in Training and Requires Medical Attention.” Sky Sports, https://www.skysports.com/football/news/11838/12254909/moussa-dembele-atletico-madrid-striker-collapses-in-training-and-requires-medical-attention. Accessed 30 Nov. 2021.
“Não há relação entre casos de mal súbito em atletas e vacinas contra covid.” Projeto Comprova, https://projetocomprova.com.br/publicações/nao-ha-relacao-entre-casos-de-mal-subito-em-atletas-e-vacinas-contra-covid/. Accessed 30 Nov. 2021.
“—.” Estadão Verifica, https://politica.estadao.com.br/blogs/estadao-verifica/atletas-mal-subito-vacina/. Accessed 30 Nov. 2021.
“NCAA Tournament Referee Who Collapsed during Elite Eight Game Says Medical Incident Saved His Life.” CBSSports.Com, https://www.cbssports.com/college-basketball/news/ncaa-tournament-referee-who-collapsed-during-elite-eight-game-says-medical-incident-saved-his-life/. Accessed 30 Nov. 2021.
“Referee Bert Smith’s Fall in Men’s NCAA Tournament Game Didn’t Kill Him. It Saved His Life.” Indianapolis Star, https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/ncaab/2021/04/09/ncaa-tournament-referee-bert-smith-collapse-game-saved-life/7148461002/. Accessed 30 Nov. 2021.
Taylor, Daniel. “A Man Collapses on a Football Pitch Once Every Four Days. Is the Threat of Cardiac Arrest Getting Worse?” The Athletic, https://theathletic.com/2963733/2021/11/19/someone-collapses-football-pitch-every-four-days/. Accessed 30 Nov. 2021.