Heart problems in athletes, particularly football players have become an alarming issue in recent years. Last year alone, ten players attached to Football Association clubs including T&T’s Akeem Adams were reported to have died from heart related complications.
On Friday, T&T lost yet another international, this time Defence Force winger Kevon Carter at the age of 30. Local officials are currently discussing more intensely preventative measures for local footballers.
Research indicates that Major League Soccer (MLS) already has one of the most extensive medical screening procedures in US professional sports. It requires all players to undergo EKGs and echocardiograms before each season. The results are evaluated by physicians on site then sent to the league office where they are reviewed again.
Two years ago, those exams showed that defender Zachary Herold, Toronto FC’s top pick in the 2010 SuperDraft, had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), leaving him at risk of developing a potentially fatal irregular heart rhythm. So Herold retired from soccer—at the age of 17.
In addition to the pre- and post-season physicals, the vast majority of the league’s 19 teams—the Galaxy and Chivas USA among them—also use wireless heart-rate monitors about the size of a credit card to track players’ reactions to in-season training.
Christine Lawless, cardiologist for the MLS, laments the recent tragedies but concedes there is no way to be sure they won’t happen again.
“Modern medical science cannot control or be aware of every variable,” she wrote in an e-mail. “The heat index, the player’s hydration, genetics or preexisting conditions—even the fitness level of the player early in a season—any of these and more could be contributing factors.”
Former MLS player Stern John hopes to see improvements in local football to deal with this alarming issue.
“It’s definitely a scary thing. I’m thankful as a player I never experienced heart problems but again I was fortunate to be in England where there were proper systems in place. I hope that locally for the sake of our players we can come out with ways to deal with this. It’s very important for us going forward as a footballing country.