Managers run high risk of heart attacks

  • March 24, 2005

Health experts warn that the pressures of football management could prove fatal, after revealing almost half England's club bosses have significant heart problems.

Dr Dorian Dugmore, secretary general of the World Council for Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation, has carried out a two-year study which uncovered the alarming statistic that 44% of managers exhibit 'significant cardiovascular risk factors, some needing immediate attention'.

It was Dugmore who subjected Sam Allardyce and Dave Bassett to stress tests during games back in 2001, and his work with their colleagues since has highlighted the potential problems and increased awareness of the need to tackle the problem.

Jock Stein died of a heart attack at a Wales v Scotland match in 1985 - and Graeme Souness, Gerard Houllier, Joe Kinnear, Barry Fry, Dario Gradi and Sir Alex Ferguson, who has had a pacemaker fitted, have all experienced problems in the more recent past.

Even so, Dugmore insists there is no need for scare-mongering.

'Jock Stein died in front of millions - [Brian Clough's former assistant] Peter Taylor was another one,' he said.

'We have seen it and we tend to forget these things - and for every one we know about, there is another one we do not.

'The message is there is a lifestyle risk. It is a passionate game and with it goes stress, and you have to look after yourselves.

'You can alleviate it if you do the right things - but please do. That is the sort of thing we are trying to get across.'

Dugmore, the director of Manchester-based Wellness International, is to present his findings at a series of international conferences in Europe and America later this year - and is currently working with 75 league managers on his 'Fitness to Manage' programme.

His research has identified a series of health problems, including atrial fibrillation (a chaotic, irregular heartbeat arising from the top chambers), aortic stenosis (the narrowing and hardening of the heart's main outflow valve), ventricular ectopy (an irregular heartbeat arising from the main chambers), high blood pressure and dangerous levels of cholesterol.

The programme is designed to address the causes - including nutrition, exercise, smoking and drinking - although the nature of the modern job is a major influence.

Dugmore admits he was not unduly surprised by what he found.

'It surprised me because it is a high percentage. But when you actually look at their lifestyle profiles - the amount of hours they work, the pressures that they are under, the uncertainty of staying in the job and the performance-related aspect - then no, I was not surprised,' he said.

'You can add to that that they are virtually all former players who have gone from concentrating solely on looking after themselves, to sometimes within the space of a week or two becoming a manager.

'They are working 16 or 17 hours a day and eating the same amount as they did but not exercising as much, so the risk is magnified.

'In a very, very, very small number of people, it might be genetic. But in the majority, it is because of the lifestyle they have developed, their passion for the game and the pressure under which they are working in combination with not doing the things they were doing when they were playing.'

Dugmore's work with Allardyce and Bassett led to a bigger study involving 12 managers, and his latest project with a much larger group has just been extended by four years with Premier League funding.

The League Managers' Association and the Professional Footballers' Association have also been heavily involved, and the initiative has been well-received by the men at whom it has been aimed.

'They are an excellent bunch of guys; they really, really are,' said Dugmore.

'I have been very impressed with the approach they have taken.

'I would have to say, though, that as soon as they go back into their own environment and the pressure is back on then it is a challenge to keep them focused on that element of their lifestyle - because the other elements take over.

'It is finding a way to keep them focused.'


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