Tom Lockyer: Will Luton Town captain play again? What happened to other players with heart conditions

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 Luton Town captain Tom Lockyer collapsed on the pitch yesterday as his side took on Bournemouth away - we look at what happened to other players with heart conditions and whether they were able to play again

The harrowing news of Tom Lockyer's collapse silenced the usual buzz that goes hand-in-hand with Saturday football. The Luton Town captain fell to ground during the second half of his side's Premier League clash with Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium on December 16th.

After being treated by paramedics and club staff, Lockyer was stretchered off and the match was eventually abandoned, almost half an hour after it was first paused. Luton Town have since confirmed the 29-year-old suffered cardiac arrest on the pitch but was 'responsive' by the time he was taken off and he is now in a 'stable' condition in hospital. "Tom was transferred to hospital, where we can reassure supporters that he is stable and currently undergoing further tests with his family at his bedside," Luton Town's statement read. "We don’t know the full extent of what happened and what the next steps are at this stage, but we thank Bournemouth and the medical staff on both sides for their immediate response, which was absolutely amazing."

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This isn't the first time Hatters fans have held their breath and prayed for the safety of their beloved captain. During last season's Championship play-off final against Coventry City, Lockyer was taken to hospital after collapsing with no one around him in just the 11th minute of play. It was later revealed the defender had suffered atrial fibrillation of the heart, which he underwent surgery to correct. Lockyer was given the green light to continue his playing career, and he later penned a new deal with the club.

Atrial fibrillation, a type of heart arrhythmia, is sadly not an uncommon diagnosis in sport. Research published in the BMJ suggests that athletes appear to be 'almost two and half times more likely' than non-athletes to experience irregular heart rhythms (atrial fibrillation).

Of course, Lockyer's wellbeing is the primary concern and the footballing world anxiously awaits further updates on his condition. However, questions are already being asked over whether the Luton captain will hang up his boots after his second pitch collapse in just seven months.

What has happened to other players with heart conditions?

Lockyer collapsing at the Vitality Stadium has not only brought back harrowing memories for Luton fans, but evoked similar images of other players as well.

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The world fell silent when Christian Eriksen fell to the ground during the Euro 2020 match between Denmark and Finland. It was later confirmed the Danish international had suffered cardiac arrest and he confirmed he 'was gone from this world for five minutes'. Eriksen was fitted with an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator device (ICD) and has since gone on to continue his career, playing for Brentford and Manchester United in the Premier League.

Fabrice Muamba also collapsed in 2012 during the FA Cup quarter-final match between Bolton and Tottenham Hotspur. His heart stopped for a terrifying 78 minutes but his life was saved and after a matter of days, his progress had 'exceeded expectations'. Just shy of a month after the incident, Muamba was discharged from hospital after also having an ICD fitted. However, unlike Eriksen, the former Birmingham and Bolton star announced his retirement following medical recommendations.

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Tragically, not all cases of cardiac arrests in football end with a positive outcome.

In 2003, Marc-Vivien Foé collapsed in the centre circle with no other players near him during Cameroon's clash with Colombia during the FIFA Confederations Cup. Foé received medical attention on the pitch before he was stretchered off and while medics spent 45 minutes trying to resuscitate him, he sadly passed away, with the autopsy revealing evidence of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a disease which causes the heart muscle to thicken.

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Just a year later, Hungarian international Miklós Fehér collapsed while playing for Benfica in a league match against Vitória de Guimarães. The 24-year-old received medical attention but his death was confirmed as a result of cardiac arrest, also brought on by hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

Antonio Puerta, who spent his entire career with Sevilla, collapsed during a 2007 LaLiga match against Getafe. He regained consciousness and was able to walk to the dressing room but he collapsed again and was taken to hospital. Three days later, Puerta passed away at just 22 years of age after suffering several cardiac arrests due to 'an incurable, hereditary heart disease known as arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy'.

Two years later, Daniel Jarque passed away during Espanyol's 2009/10 pre-season, with Spanish media reporting he had collapsed in his hotel room while talking on the phone to his partner. The club later confirmed Jarque had suffered 'systolic heart failure' and despite medics working on him for an hour, they were unable to resuscitate him.

In 2018, Fiorentina captain Davide Astori passed away in his sleep while staying in a hotel ahead of the club's match against Udinese. The autopsy determined the cause of death was cardiac arrest and the news completely shook the world of football.

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Other high profile footballers have also had their careers impacted by heart conditions. In 2021, just months after securing his dream move to Barcelona, Manchester City and Premier League icon Sergio Agüero announced his retirement from the game. The Argentinian was taken to hospital with chest discomfort, later diagnosed as cardiac arrhythmia.

Iker Casillas also made the decision to retire after he suffered 'an acute myocardial infarction' during training with FC Porto in 2019. The former goalkeeper has since committed to raising awareness of heart problems and encouraging others to take the necessary steps to help prevent similar problems like his.

"The serious experience I had has opened my eyes and made me realise what I often say nowadays: we must take good care of our 'engine'. It’s no accident that the heart is the most important organ in the body," Casillas told FIFPRO after his retirement.

For more information on cardiac arrest, including symptoms, treatment, and recovery, visit British Heart Foundation. You can also find more general information on heart conditions here, via NHS Inform.

There is also a helpful BHF guide, which tells you how to perform CPR step-by-step, should you ever need to. You can find that via this link.

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