Fact Check-Screenshot purporting to show Irish Examiner headline reporting that referee whistles may cause sudden heart complications in athletes is digitally altered

A screenshot purporting to show a headline published by the Irish Examiner warning that referee whistles may cause sudden heart complications for athletes is digitally altered and was never published by the news outlet. Some have shared the digitally altered image as proof of a cover-up by the media of COVID-19 vaccine side-effects among sports people.

The Irish Examiner masthead can be seen at the top of the screenshot, with a headline that reads: “Referee whistles may be cause to sudden increase in heart problems among sports players experts say.”

Text under the fake headline reads: “The recent discovery has come to light after a number of sports players have had incidents on the pitch and required medical assistance, referee whistle may also be causing incident’s [sic] in sports fans attending games. All incidents are non vaccine [sic] related the public has been urged to ignore misinformation recently circulating on social media platforms.”

A user shared the image on Facebook and said: “If any sane discerning Irish person actually believes there’s any truth in this piece in the Irish Examiner, I truly despair for the people of this Country. How long have Referees used whistles at sporting events in Ireland? But now all of a sudden, people are developing heart problems from them??? ( here ).

One user shared the screenshot on Instagram and said: “It’s the whistles!” ( here ). A user said in the comments: “Yet this is a new occurrence?? Just a coincidence…have whistles changed?”

Other examples of the image circulating online can be seen ( here ), ( here ), ( here ).

The screenshot is fabricated, however, and was not published by the Irish Examiner. Reuters found no such article published on the Irish Examiner website ( ), ( ).

Irish Examiner Editor Tom Fitzpatrick told Reuters: “Yes, I can confirm that no such article has ever been published by the Irish Examiner.”.

A Twitter advanced search did not reveal any such article published by the @IrishExaminer Twitter account ( ).

Reuters previously reported that there is no evidence to support claims that COVID-19 vaccines are linked to reported incidents of athletes collapsing in public ( here ).

In a statement to Reuters in November, the international soccer governing body, Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), said that they were “not aware of a rise in episodes of cardiac arrests as indicated in your email and no cases have been flagged in relation to individuals receiving a COVID vaccine.” ( here ).

Reuters has also previously addressed fake images purporting to show authentic news articles shared online ( here ), ( here ), ( here ), ( here ).


Altered. An image purporting to show a headline published by the Irish Examiner reporting that referee whistles could be causing a sudden increase in heart complications among athletes is digitally altered. No such article was published by the news outlet.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here.