The Lancashire Sunday Football League has displayed a ‘big heart’ after rolling out a pioneering new health initiative this year.
Over the past six weeks, local league footballers have been taking advantage of a new cardiac testing programme.
The resource is run in association with the Sunday league’s charity partner Heartbeat, which is based at Preston North End’s Deepdale stadium.
It is the brainchild of Eamonn McNamara, who is the chairman of both the league and Preston Referees’ Association.
Every week, around 12 apparently fit and healthy young people die in the UK from undiagnosed heart conditions.
McNamara himself has had treatment for a heart disorder and knows only too well the impact the condition can have.
In the recent past, the local football community has been devasted by a number of tragic incidents involving young footballers in the area.
Fifteen-year-old Penwortham Girls’ High School pupil Melissa Smith tragically died after collapsing on the pitch in October 2014, while playing for Cadley Girls against Euxton Villa.
In 2012, 17-year-old Jordan Grant – who played for BAE and Springfields – died on his way to work in February 2012.
The first heart testing session was held at the end of January and has continued over the six weeks.
Heartbeat provides a range of prevention and rehabilitation services to people who are recovering from heart illness and those who are at high risk of developing it.
On a weekly basis, Heartbeat currently supports more than 700 people with the aim of improving their health and ultimately reducing their risk of future cardiac illness.
For 37 years, it has been working in the local communities to raise awareness of heart disease.
One in four people in Lancashire are affected by heart disease, the second highest incidence in the UK.
The charity exists to help those affected and raise awareness of the risks it has on people. A substantial amount of money has been donated to the charity by the league’s clubs, with Craig Ashcroft of Unicorn FC organising a boxing event at Evoque Night Club, which raised more than £2,000.
Jill Rogerson, Chief Executive of Heartbeat, said: “It is important as a cardiac charity to ensure we deliver early intervention and prevention services if we are to contribute to a reduction in heart disease.”