As Danish soccer star Christian Eriksen recovered from the cardiac arrest he suffered while playing against Finland in a Euro 2020 game on June 12, 2021, COVID-19 and anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists seized on his illness as an opportunity to spread false claims linking it to COVID-19 vaccination.
Much of the speculation seemed to derive from the fact that Eriksen is an elite, 29-year-old athlete, with access to high-quality medical screening and care both at his club, Inter Milan, and with the Danish national team. On that basis, some observers evidently concluded that his sudden illness must have had an external cause, namely Eriksen's being vaccinated against COVID-19.
That's a faulty assumption to start off with. While rare, sudden cardiac arrest is, unfortunately, a long-established phenomenon among young and otherwise fit and healthy athletes.
For example, on June 12, Twitter user @ya_yo2 wrote: "Christian Eriksen, a perfectly fit soccer player who plays for one of the top soccer teams in the world and has the best medical attention, collapsed on the field today due to heart failure. Thanks [sic] God they were able to bring him back to life. He was given Pfizer a few days ago."
They followed up with a more specific claim: "Inter Milan Chief Medic and Cardiologist confirmed that he received the Pfizer vaccine 12 days ago. He spoke an hour ago on Radio Sportiva from Italy."
From there, the rumor was spread even more widely by Twitter user @lumidek, and shared by Alex Berenson, a former New York Times reporter and frequent source of COVID-19-related misinformation:
The claim that Inter Milan's chief medical doctor, whose name is Dr. Piero Volpi, had told an Italian radio station that Eriksen had received a Pfizer vaccine on May 31, was false. The station in question, Radio Sportiva, responded directly to Berenson's tweet, writing (in Italian): "The information contained in the tweet cited here is false. We have never reported any opinion about Christian Eriksen's condition, from Inter's medical staff. If the author of this tweet does not delete it, we will be forced to take action."
Twitter user @lumidek subsequently deleted their tweet, but Berenson had not deleted his as of June 14.
The description of Volpi as a cardiologist was also inaccurate, and one that appears to have been motivated by a cynical effort to add further authority to his fictional remarks to Radio Sportiva. In fact, Volpi is an orthopedic surgeon and an expert in knee injuries.