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Harrogate Town FC partners with private hospital to protect player's health

Photo credit: Matt Kirkham, Harrogate Town AFC.
Photo credit: Matt Kirkham, Harrogate Town AFC.
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A midfielder on Harrogate Town FC’s first team has reinforced the importance of heart checks for athletes by sharing his own close experience with cardiac arrests.

HTFC first team players handed over a signed shirt to staff at the BMI Duchy Hospital to mark the launch of a new partnership between the newly turned professional side and the town’s private hospital.

Photo credit: Matt Kirkham, Harrogate Town AFC.

Photo credit: Matt Kirkham, Harrogate Town AFC.

The hospital has offered regular heart checks and fast-tracked health care for the first team players, following their recent promotion to the National League.

Cardiology Technician at the BMI Duchy, Louise Lane, explained why athletes are, in some cases, at greater risk of congenital heart problems.

She said: “Often the heart puts in extra beats, especially with athletes, and also their heart rates are often very slow. If your heart rates are in the 70s, theirs could be 40.

“They have a massively fit heart, it’s a happy and healthy heart. But it means they could be at greater risk of congenital issues.”

Photo credit: Matt Kirkham, Harrogate Town AFC.

Photo credit: Matt Kirkham, Harrogate Town AFC.

Cardiomyopathy is a general term for diseases of the heart muscle, where the walls of the heart chambers have become stretched, thickened or stiff, affecting the heart’s ability to pump blood around the body.

Louise added: “Cardiomyopathy is often called ‘sudden death syndrome’.

“Just because you’re fit and you’re an athlete doesn’t mean to say you have any idea what’s going on inside.

“Cardiomyopathy isn’t particularly common but it does happen, there have been rugby and football players whose hearts have stopped on the pitch.

“If they’d have had this kind of screening it might not have saved them but it would have at least given whoever was looking at the results an indication that there was something wrong.

Midfielder, Jack Emmett, was the first player to undergo initial baseline health checks including an exercise stress test and an electrocardiogram (ECG) which measures the waveform of the heart.

The importance of the checks are especially poignant for Jack, who lost not only his twin brother, Alex, but also his university friend, Dan Wilkinson, to heart attacks at an early age.

Alex, a diabetic, suffered a cardiac arrest aged just 18, while Dan, a fellow football player, had been playing for Sheffield’s Shaw Lane when he died after a heart attack on the pitch.

Jack said: “These tests are really important for me and they’re quite close to home.

“I was with Dan at Loughborough University - we were on the same course and we used to play football together, he was a really healthy and fit lad.

“We graduated together but a couple of months after he had a heart attack on the pitch.

“He was the last person you would think that would happen to and obviously having that happen to someone so close to you and to someone you never expected it to happen to kind of opens your eyes.

“It’s an underlying thing and you don’t realise you’ve got it so getting these tests is massively reassuring.”

First team manager, Simon Weaver, said: “We’ve a lot of young men with young families; we need to make sure that they are safe and know that we care about them.

“The Duchy has been great – we had a player with an ankle injury not long ago and he was in and x-rayed within 20 minutes. It’s that level of care that makes a difference.”