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5 Football players who had to retire prematurely due to health problems

Lucas Silva
Lucas Silva’s career might well be over
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Suraj Krishnan

In the modern age, injuries are considered as an inevitable element of any sport. But when the game is being played at a frantic pace with 22 physically built players vying for one ball, you should expect numerous broken jaws, fractured ribs, and wounded heads. But the fact of the matter is that more serious injuries have materialized on the field of football not just by the physical competitiveness among players but also by the athleticism of footballers who in pursuit of giving their 100 percent on the field, often end up aggravating basic health issues.

With the news of Real Madrid starlet Lucas Silva's failed medical at Sporting due to a rare heart condition breaking out in the media which could force the youngster who is all of 22 to retire from the sport, It really makes us wonder "what could've been" if such talented players had not suffered from health problems at a tender age.

There have been numerous instances when common health problems have proven more than ordinary hick ups and have ended up costing players their careers. Here are 5 football players who have been a victim to health issues and injuries in their career.

#1 Ruben de la Red

Ruben de la Red
De la Red’s fledgling career was was stalled at the age of 25

Ruben de la Red was once a promising youngster coming through the ranks for Real Madrid turning heads with his performances for both club and country. But fate dealt a cruel blow and halted his progress as a footballer.

During his time with Los Blancos, Ruben collapsed on the pitch in a Copa del Rey match versus Real Union. Further medical examinations confirmed the presence of a rare heart condition keeping the midfielder out of action for 2 years.

Despite the major setback, Ruben was always optimistic of a return to the game. But it was not meant to be. De la Red, who earned three full international caps for Spain during his short career in addition to 65 appearances at the club level for both Real Madrid and Getafe had to retire aged just 25.

Post retirement the club offered him a role which would help him hone his coaching skills by working with one of the youth teams at the club and help players progress through the ranks at Castilla.

#2 Fabrice Muamba

Fabrice Muamba
Fabrice Muamba was lucky to be alive after collapsing on the pitch becuase of a heart attack

Fabrice Muamba’s tragic story is one of immense courage in the face of adversity. Muamba began his career at Arsenal before moving to Birmingham City, and then spending the next years of his career at the Reebok stadium, home to Bolton Wanderers .

On the 17th of March 2012 during Bolton's FA Cup quarter-final tie against Tottenham Hotspur the world was left shocked and it was not because of the quality of football. Midway through the game Fabrice Muamba all of 24 suffered a cardiac arrest and collapsed on the pitch.

In a shocking revelation, doctors said Muamba’s heart had stopped beating for an astonishing 78 minutes. He was given 15 defibrillator shocks before his heart started beating again.

Muamba then spent around four weeks in intensive care, before being discharged from hospital on 16 April. Sixteen days later he returned to the very stadium where he collapsed. In an emotional speech, Fabrice thanked God, the doctors and the fans for all their support in the process announcing his retirement from professional football.

Muamba’s story is inspiring and at the same time reminds us that there are a lot more important things in life than football.

#3 Stiliyan Petrov

Stiliyan Petrov
Stiliyan Petrov’s long fight with leukaemia serves as one of the inspiring tales in modern sports

Stiliyan Petrov joined Aston Villa in 2006 from Scottish champions Celtic. He soon became a vital cog in Martin O’Neill’s side as the Birmingham-based side hovered just below the top four in the Premier League.

Petrov was arguably one of Europe’s best in his position. At 32 years of age, he had already amassed 105 caps for Bulgaria and could boast of 13 major honors in his trophy cabinet. During his time in England, he transformed from a dynamic player who scored 62 league goals over 7 seasons in Scotland to the more tactically sound player in an impressive Villa side.

All this changed in March 2012 when, following a 3-0 defeat to Arsenal, Petrov developed a fever. A simple blood test two days following the match showed he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia, specifically Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL).

Fifty-one months after the diagnosis was made Petrov has fought his way back spectacularly and returned to pre-season training with Villa this June Petrov has won many midfield battles on the pitch but what will inspire generations of people is this battle that he has won against Leukemia off the pitch.

To the astonishment of many, the Bulgarian legend joined Villa for pre-season training earlier this month.

#4 Chris Naumoff

Chris Naumoff
Chris Naumoff’s rare heart condition cut short his footballing dreams

Chris Naumoff is not a name many football fans would know. The talented youngster plying his trade in the A-League in Australia was touted to be the next big thing in Australian football. Making appearances for his club Sydney Fc he won the young player of the season award in 2014.

With impressive displays, the youngster earned a trial at the second division Spanish club CD Numancia. But the dream was short-lived. Once he was released by his current club he signed his 3-year contract with the Spanish outfit. Once the paperwork was done he had to attend the mandatory medical test. The tests revealed a rare heart condition and he was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – a condition that puts athletes at risk of cardiac arrest.

This was heartbreaking for ‘kiki’ as he is called in Australia as he was forced to retire at the age of 21. But in true sporting fashion, Naumoff hopes to be involved in the game in some capacity.

While Naumoff’s name might not be up there with the famous players playing in the competitive leagues his struggle and tragedy are the same.

#5 Mario de Castro

Mario de Crasto
Mario de Crasto was one of the famous Brazilian forwards of the 1920s

When we talk about health issues we often tend to forget the fact that mental illness takes its toll on a player as much as a physical illness. Mario de Castro is a testament to his very fact.

Mario was one of the most clinical goal scorers in the history of world football. An intellectual, Castro was studying medicine when he first started playing football for Atletico Mineiro. De Castro formed a lethal combination with Said and Jairo and the menacing front three were known as ‘Trio Maldito’, De Castro being the star of the show.

Mário was the first Atlético Mineiro player outside of Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo to be called up for the Brazilian national football team. The best player in Brazil at the time, he retired aged 26, after Atletico’s director shot a Villa Nova fan following a 4-3 comeback victory where Mario scored all 4 goals.

Edited by Staff Editor
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