Heart Disease – The Goal of Soccer Managers

English soccer team Tottenham Hotspur’s manager, Harry Redknapp will undergo minor heart surgery on Wednesday, according to reports here. As always, the media tends to exaggerate, possibly to increase readership. As anyone knows, a medical procedure to relieve a blockage of one of the heart arteries is basically that – a procedure (called coronary angioplasty)  usually done under local anaesthetic with the patient able to go home the next day. Hardly what is implied when heart surgery is mentioned – an open-heart operation under general anaesthetic carrying far higher risks.

Anyway, the point here is that there seems an increasing number of soccer managers, especially in the English League that have succumbed to various heart ailments. The list includes:

  • Gerard Houlier of Liverpool – in 2001, he  underwent an 11-hour operation for aortic dissection, only for it to recur last year while in charge of Aston Villa, forcing him to quit football altogether.
  • Sir Alex Furguson of Manchester United – has had a permanent pacemaker fitted in 2004 for irregular heartbeats (supraventricular tachycardia).
  • Sam Alladyce of West Ham United –  has had coronary angioplasty in 2009.
  • Joe Kinnear of Newcastle FC –  has had bypass surgery in 2009.

Is there any connection between the rigors of running a Premier League soccer club with players valued at millions of pounds and shareholders baying for a healthy bottom-line with that of heart disease? Your guess is as good as mine. If one were to look at evidence-based clinical research, then there’s not going to be many that will link stress with heart disease. One report by the World Council for Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation concluded that almost half of England’s football managers have “significant” heart problems and their life-consuming, high-pressure jobs are a “recipe for potential disaster” .However, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence (see above!) that leads many to believe that a football manager’s life is full of stress, never mind the financial rewards.

The Stress of Managing A Football Club Can Make a Man Go On His Knees

Says Harry Redknapp : “I am absolutely fine and have no worries about my health but this game can make the most mild-mannered of people explode as when you are sitting on the bench you get eaten up inside from first to last whistle.”

 “After a game I cannot sleep, there is too much going on in my head as I go over moves, think about game plans, think about which player has had a good or bad game – and it’s worse if you lose.”

Indeed, the beautiful game can kill you!

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