Porto goalkeeper, 37-year-old Iker Casillas, was taken to hospital last week after suffering a mini heart attack during a training session, leaving the football world in a state of shock. Despite being a World Cup-winning goalie, recovering from this health scare is unmistakably Casillas’ greatest victory.
Extremely fortunate to have survived, he is recovering well but is unsure what the future holds for him at this stage. The Real Madrid legend suffered an acute myocardinal infarction whilst training with his teammates last Wednesday. Luckily the Porto medical team were on hand and responded quickly, limiting the effect of the infarction. However he will be out of action for at least a couple of weeks, if not months, leaving his future footballing career unclear. An acute myocardinal infarction is an obstruction of a coronary artery and can cause symptoms such as chest pain, nausea and difficulty breathing.
It’s always rather shocking to hear of professional sportsmen and women suffering from heart attacks and major heart-related health problems. We assume that they are exempt from such casualties, as they are at the peak of physical fitness. To see their heart fail them in such an unforgiving way seems inexplicable. Similarly, almost every year at the London Marathon and other running events, we see at least one death due to cardiac related problems. Physical exercise is encouraged by experts to achieve and maintain a healthy heart and body. However, in some people with underlying heart conditions, it can precipitate acute fatalities. It seems unfair that someone who has been a life-long smoker may get away without ever suffering from a cardiac problem, when another person who has always seemingly looked after their heart and has exercised, does.
It is important to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of cardiac problems so they can be spotted early and lives can be saved, like in the case of Casillas. Overwhelmingly, this points to the need for screening in young and old, to detect silent heart conditions and allow for the understanding of what may trigger a more serious problem.
It can’t be said whether Casillas will return to football or not at this moment in time and the serious concerns for his health are reasonable. However, the situation must be looked at with optimism, as it is not unheard of that footballers return to play after having suffered similar complications or undergone major heart surgery.