A SUFFOLK footballer is hoping to raise awareness of cardiomyopathy by speaking out after being forced to stop playing because of the condition.
Woodbridge Town’s Matt Mackenzie, who previously played for Felixstowe & Walton United and Ipswich Wanderers, has been advised to quit at the age of 26 on medical grounds. He is pictured (above centre, black & white striped shirt) playing for Woodbridge Town against Haverhill Rovers earlier this season.
Specialists have diagnosed that Mackenzie has cardiomyopathy – a condition that could be life-threating if he continued playing.
cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle that makes it harder for the heart to pump blood to the rest of the body, which can lead to heart failure.
Mackenzie, who lives near Felixstowe, has chosen to speak out about his condition to raise awareness and potentially help other players in the future.
He said: “I fainted a couple of times, although not while playing football, so I went for a check-up the week after we had played at Great Yarmouth (on November 10) and luckily for me they picked it up.”
He underwent an ECG, after which he was told it was 99 per cent certain he had cardiomyopathy, and then an MRI scan in London.
A final consultation on Tuesday of this week confirmed he has a mild form of cardiomyopathy.
He continued: “It is the same condition as Fabrice Muamba (the former Bolton Wanderers player who suffered a cardiac arrest in an FA Cup match against Tottenham Hotspur in March 2012 and was forced to retire) although his was more serious as it was an arrhythmia, which I don’t have.
“He wasn’t diagnosed, like a few other players have not been, but at professional clubs now they do a lot more screening, which they don’t do at our level.
“Leon Barnett, who played for Northampton Town, has just been advised to pack up playing after he was found to have a heart rate of 300 beats per minute, which is twice what it should have been!
“I feel really lucky because it is one of those things that if you don’t get screened early it may be too late.”
Mackenzie, who praised the support he has received from Woodbridge Town, said: “What has happened is not known in the wider community so this will raise awareness, so if you do have any symptoms don’t think twice about getting advice.
“If any close relatives have the condition there is a chance you may do as well. Neither my parents nor close family have any symptoms but they will all be checked out.”
He reflected: “It could have been so much worse for me, so you have to look at it in a positive way as I could have carried on playing still not knowing.
“It is most likely genetic and I have probably had it most of my life and not known about it.
“As it is a heart condition I have been strongly advised against playing any competitive sports which involve exerting too much energy, although I can play a sport like golf, which I will probably take up.”
Mackenzie scored the opening goal as Woodbridge Town beat Bungay Town 3-0 at Portman Road in May in the CNet Training Suffolk Senior Cup Final. He is pictured above (far right, black & white striped shirt) scoring in the 36th minute.
That win completed a league and cup double – Woodbridge had already won Division One of the Thurlow Nunn League – and Mackenzie had already scored ten times in 17 games following their club’s promotion to the Premier Division this season.
Since signing for the Woodpeckers in November 2016, Mackenzie has scored 67 goals in 89 games, despite playing the majority of the time as a right winger, rather than his favoured position as a centre forward.
Mackenzie (pictured above with fiancee Becky Le Grice) reflected: “It is absolutely gutting as I have never really contemplated not playing football, and I have absolutely loved playing at Woodbridge. Joining the club was the best decision I made and I have some great memories.
“I love scoring goals, especially playing for Woodbridge because you knew you would have the opportunity to score. I will also miss the buzz of the changing room and all the lads.”
Mackenzie, who will lead out the Woodbridge Town team ahead of Saturday’s Premier Division match versus Brantham Athletic, added: “When I was told all sorts of things were going through my mind, but I was not really in the right frame of mind to think about it.
“It was devastating at first, but I am coming to terms with it now.
“I have a lot of experience and would like to give something back to the game, so maybe later next year or the year after I will definitely take my badges and do some coaching.”
Woodbridge Manager Jamie Scales said: “He will be sorely missed by all connected with Woodbridge Town for his desire, second-to-none work rate and, of course, his goal-scoring ratio.
“Matt will have a new chapter in time and Woodbridge Town would welcome him to help out wherever, whether in a coaching or ambassador role, when he feels the time is right.
“He has been an honest bloke throughout his time here and that is why he probably detected that something wasn’t right, so that’s a clear message to others out there.
“It’s not the end, but for the interim period we all want to say a massive thank you to Matt ‘Macca’ Mackenzie from Woodbridge Town FC.”