Squash: Worrying trend of cardiac risk - Willstrop

James Willstrop.

James Willstrop.

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Saturday’s incident at White Hart Lane, where Bolton Wanderers player Fabrice Muamba collapsed, is unfortunately not an entirely new one.

Everyone hopes he can make a full recovery.

Although the figures suggest it is still relatively rare, there is a distressing trend where young, seemingly healthy and fit people, often professional athletes, die from undiagnosed heart conditions.

In just the past few weeks two very public cases have drawn attention to this hidden affliction: Robbie, the 19-year-old son of Castleford Tigers coach Ian Millward, died suddenly in February and on Saturday in front of thousands of sports fans the world over, the desperate situation involving Muamba unfolded.

Many footballing fans will instantly recall the relatively recent deaths of Marc Vivien Foe, Antonio Puerta and Phil O’Donnell, all young and in the prime of their footballing lives.

Of course these conditions are not restricted to footballers, though they are the most high profile victims.

A few years ago a 22-year-old squash player, Neil Desai, from Surrey, died whilst asleep on holiday, to the utter devastation of his family and the squash community.

CRY, which stands for Cardiac Risk in the Young, was founded in 1995, and it raises awareness of these trends, promoting research and screening programmes designed to detect these mystifying conditions.


They state on their website that: “Every week in the UK at least 12 young people die suddenly from undiagnosed heart conditions”.

CRY have started to work with professional sports associations and endeavour to screen all athletes aged between 14 and 35. Moreover they encourage any young person partaking in sport at any level to be screened.

It may not preclude these tragedies happening altogether, and the screenings may not pick up everything, but they can help to give some peace of mind and eliminate certain awful eventualities. It is likely that Muamba would have received medicals and screenings being a Premier League footballer, but so little information is known about what happened on Saturday, that there is only room for conjecture at present.

Young, healthy, sporty people seem indestructible, and they probably feel that way.

The most shocking thing about these deaths is how unexpected they are, so perhaps the message from CRY is best directed towards parents, who might be more attuned to the fragility of human life than their young children.

What could be much worse than losing a child like this? A visit to: www.c-r-y.org.uk could prove to be very worthwhile.