Ajax admits liability for player's brain damage; Nouri family relieved

Amsterdam football club Ajax admitted that it is liable for the condition of young player Abdelhak Nouri, general manager Edwin van der Sar announced in a press conference on Monday. Nouri's family is relieved that the club acknowledged its responsibility.

Nouri collapsed due to cardiac arrhythmias during a practice match against Werder Bremen in Austria in July 2017 and had to be resuscitated on the field. The now 21-year-old midfielder sustained serious and permanent brain damage. His doctors believe that he will never be able to function normally again. Last month Nouri's family went to the KNVB arbitration committee to get Ajax to acknowledge that Nouri did not get adequate medical care when he collapsed. 

"We have recently come to new insights and they show that the treatment was not adequate. Our deepest apologies to the family that it took so long until it was clear exactly what happened. It feels like a huge shock to me", a clearly emotional Van der Sar said, according to NU.nl. Ajax initially based its analysis of the treatment on the field on its own information and a second opinion from an external medical advisor, Van der Sar said. That analysis said that no mistakes were made.

Ajax commissioned a third opinion on the basis of new information that emerged from the Nouri family's petition to the KNVB, he said. Two cardiologists from the LUMC now concluded that it is unlikely that Nouri had effective blood circulation after he collapsed. There was insufficient focus on the heartbeat, the circulation and eventual resuscitation, the cardiologists concluded. The defibrillator on the field should have been used sooner to get a better picture of the situation. After clearing Nouri's airway, the treaters should have paused to think for a moment because his situation did not improve.

"If the defibrillator had been deployed, this would have shown that resuscitation could start", Van de Sar said, according to the newspaper. "If that had been done, Abdelhak might have come out better. That is not certain, but it is possible." He added: "For a long time we as management, as well as our medical staff, were convinced that Abdelhak was given the best possible care on the field. If leading cardiologists then look differently on that, that's a big blow."

Before the press conference, Van der Sar personally visited Nouri's family to inform them about the club's findings. The family is relieved that Ajax acknowledged liability, family spokesperson Khalid Kasem said to AT5. "Van der Sar clearly acknowledged today that care on the field in Austria last year was insufficient. The doctors missed important signals there", Kasem said. "Only there's mixed feelings. On the one hand they are happy with the acknowledgement. On the other hand, it took a long time before Ajax admitted being liable."

Kasem emphasized that Ajax has always been wrong about their conclusions. "That Van der Sar now says there is new information is wrong. If they had previously approached the two cardiologists from the LUMC, they would also have come to the conclusion that Ajax is liable for the situation around Nouri."

In an additional response on Monday night, Ajax told AT5 that the new information Van der Sar mentioned came from the petition the Nouri family filed with the KNVB. This included a photograph that showed Abdelhak's facial expression, which raised new questions. Ajax did not have this photo in its file, which prove curcial in the assessment of the situation, according to the club. In addition, the petition contained a new reading of the way in which the heart rate montior's data had to be interpreted. 

It is not yet clear whether the arbitration case between Ajax and the Nouri family will continue now that the club recognized liability. "We want to solve this in a good way and are now focused commpletely on that", Van der Sar said at the press conference, according to NU.nl.