JOE’S MESSAGE FROM THE HEART
TWELVE months on from having his world turned upside down when he learned he needed to have immediate heart surgery, goalkeeper Joe Anyon made his first start for Scunthorpe in midweek.
Aged 28, Anyon can scarcely believe it took until this stage of his career to discover he had Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome – an irregular heartbeat that could have caused a cardiac arrest – and wants electrocardiograms (ECGs) to become compulsory for footballers across the board.
There has been a growing number of footballers to suffer heart attacks in recent years and the same could have happened to Anyon had his condition not been discovered when he had a medical ahead of a potential move to Cardiff City, after being released by Shrewsbury at the end of the 2013-14 season.
He was immediately advised to go under the knife and had three operations, putting him out of the game completely for eight months. He joined Scunthorpe in late January, but didn’t feature for them last term.
Although Anyon has now returned to full health, he has called for big changes to procedures.
“I think it should be compulsory for all players to have ECGs,” he said. “Players will think they are fine, but they might have a slight murmur or perhaps something even bigger. I think as soon as you go into fulltime football you should be having a scan, as a youth trainee.
“If you have a problem it’s not something you go on to develop in your 20s, it’s likely to be hereditary, or something you are born with. So if you have a scan when you are young, you can nip it in the bud and get on with your career.
“I had an ECG when I was a schoolboy at Blackburn and something showed up then, but they told me I could continue to play and that there wouldn’t be any problems as long as I remained active and lived a healthy lifestyle. It was the right advice at the time.
“At Cardiff they told me if you got a sudden rush of adrenaline you could have a heart attack and that I needed surgery immediately. And I ended up having three operations after one went wrong.
“It’s something clubs are more conscious of now after what happened to Marc-Vivien Foe and Fabrice Muamba, for example, but there is more that can be done.”
Anyon made his Scunthorpe debut last weekend, coming off the bench after No.1 Luke Daniels was sent off 71 minutes into the 2-1 defeat at Burton Albion.
With Daniels suspended, Anyon started Tuesday night’s Capital One Cup tie with Barnsley, which the Iron lost via a penalty shoot-out.
Having had a taste of first-team action after his year from hell, Anyon is not keen to relinquish the gloves.
“My target is to stay in the team. Every player wants to play at the highest level, but for now I’ve just got to be grounded and work hard” he added. “I’m lucky they diagnosed my condition and I proved a lot to myself to come back and win a contract.
“I could have walked away from the game after three operations.You start to think of your family and friends and that there’s more to life than football. I did have a few discussions with people close to me about whether I should give up, but I’m glad I came to the right decision. I’ve got a second chance.”