Modern day soccer players are widely seen as the epitome of health. Rigorous training regimes, strict dietary programs and advances in sports medicine ensure that these athletes have the best possible physique.
Nevertheless, even the body of a professional soccer player is not immune to illness. Fabrice Muamba, Marc Vivien Foe and Miklos Feher all suffered cardiac arrests when their physique was really at its prime.
Recently, former Newcastle and Manchester United striker Andy Cole appeared on BBC’s Football Focus to discuss his battle with kidney failure (see below). He’s still only 44 years old and retired from the beautiful game less than 8 years ago.
Being a medical doctor myself, I closely followed Cole’s inspiring interview that helped raise awareness on his particular condition. In recent years, West Bromwich Albion midfielder Darren Fletcher and former Dutch international Fernando Ricksen gave candid interviews discussing their own medical ailments.
It’s never easy to accept that your own body is failing you, but it probably is even harder if you’re so young and have dedicated your life to push it to its maximum. In this article, I review the medical conditions these three individuals, who have given so much joy to fans of different clubs, have suffered, and are still suffering from.
My aim is simple: to raise awareness and to show my admiration to Fletcher, Ricksen and Cole’s personal battles.
Darren Fletcher – Ulcerative Colitis
“I owe him everything in my career but he rose to a different level for me in the way he supported me through this.
“He was also a really caring, kind individual who did everything to help me and protect me when I was ill. For me and my family.
“He gave me the time off I needed, told me not to worry about contract situations, told me to think of my health and my family first; to forget about football.”
These are the words of Scottish international Darren Fletcher as he thanks Sir Alex Ferguson for the overwhelming support he showed his compatriot during his fight against ulcerative colitis. Ferguson even used his retirement speech in Old Trafford to wish the midfielder well.
In 2011, Fletcher took an extended break from soccer, with the club initially stating that he was suffering from a virus. After a while, it became known that he was suffering from a type of inflammatory bowel disease – ulcerative colitis (UC).