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'Muamba collapse proves I was right to quit the game,' says ex professional

updated 5:58 AM EDT, Tue March 20, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ex-pro tells CNN Fabrice Muamba's collapse proves he was right to quit soccer
  • Mitchell Cole ignored heart condition for eight years due to love of soccer
  • Cole was diagnosed with heart problem aged 17 but only retired at 25
  • Doctors told him chances of suffering cardiac arrest increased through sport

(CNN) -- Fabrice Muamba's cardiac arrest during a soccer match on Saturday convinced former pro Mitchell Cole he was right to quit the game for fear of suffering a heart attack on the pitch.

Muamba collapsed while playing for English club Bolton Wanderers on Saturday and is still in a critical condition in hospital, though he is now breathing unaided and responding to questions.

Cole, who once played in the second tier of English football, was diagnosed with a heart condition at the age of 17 but decided to play on for another eight years before retiring after doctors told him one more match could kill him.

The 26-year-old has hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, an irregular thickness of the heart in certain areas, but opted to ignore advice from doctors to try and carve out a successful career in the game.

Muamba's condition continues to improve

But after suffering from shortness of breath during training and in matches last year he returned to his specialist and was told his chances of a heart attack quadrupled when he played sport.

Cole says seeing Bolton star Muamba's horrific collapse on Saturday proved he had made the right decision to retire.

"It [Muamba's cardiac arrest] still sends a chill down my spine because it brings it home that it could have been me," he said.

Fabrice Muamba collapsed during an English soccer match between his club Bolton and Tottenham on Saturday, and is in the intensive care unit of a London heart hospital. Fabrice Muamba collapsed during an English soccer match between his club Bolton and Tottenham on Saturday, and is in the intensive care unit of a London heart hospital.
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"I came out of the professional game a year ago and it reiterates that I've made the right decision. I've been one of the lucky ones."

Cole's condition was detected at a young age during a routine test given to all young players coming out of school to go to a professional club.

He was tested over a year-long period shortly after former Cameroon international Marc Vivien-Foe collapsed and died from a heart defect during a match against Colombia in 2003.

Despite Foe's tragic death, and the advice handed down by doctors that he should retire, Cole pressed on despite the risks.

He added: "The information I took from it was that I didn't feel it was enough to stop me in my tracks for having a professional career. I [was told it was a case of] 'it might happen, it might not.'

"I took it upon myself to ignore the doctor's advice and carry on playing."

Players pray for Muamba's recovery

His condition worsened at the start of 2011 and on advice from William McKenna -- the professor of cardiology who diagnosed Cole when he was 17 -- that the risks quadrupled when playing football he retired from the professional game.

McKenna told CNN the cause of most cardiac arrests like Muamba's are genetic but that the vast majority of conditions that can be dangerous to young sportsmen and women should be picked up by tests.

He said: "The testing should be done in adolescence about the age Mitchell was and it should be every year or two years.

"It should be on a routine serial basis to pick up changes at a time when you can actually do something -- you can have another career, you can stay in school, you have other options.

"If you look back there are too many events in young people, not just in football but in all sports. Bearing in mind these conditions are recognizable -- you can make a diagnosis -- and by and large there are treatments which are effective, every effort should be made.

"The onus is not on the National Health Service, the onus should be on the professional sporting bodies to ensure that players participating are safe to participate in what is pushing the body and heart to extremes."

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Fabrice Muamba's cardiac arrest during a soccer match on Saturday convinced former pro Mitchell Cole he was right to quit the game for fear of suffering a heart attack on the pitch.
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