New Secretary of State "kicks off" CRY initiative to help young footballers – No.11 Downing Street – 28th February 2008

The Secretary of State for Media, Culture and Sport – The Rt Hon Andy Burnham MP – will today [Thursday 28 February 2008] be joined by families, whose children or partners died suddenly whilst playing football, at an event to raise awareness of sudden cardiac death in the young.

Today’s launch – to be held at No. 11 Downing Street – will link the charity, Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY), The Football Association, the Professional Footballers’ Association and the Football Foundation.

These organisations will work together to highlight the opportunities for young people to be tested for cardiac problems.

11dsab1Mr Burnham – who has been in his new ministerial post for just one month – became involved with the charity in 2002, shortly after becoming an MP. He was one of the first members of the Cardiac Risk in the Young All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG).

When 16 year old Daniel Young from Atherton collapsed and died whilst playing football in September 2005 his parents [Dionne and Craig] invited Mr Burnham to attend a CRY cardiac testing event funded by donations from the community and he has openly pledged to help address the issue of sudden cardiac death in the young, which currently claims the lives of at least 8 apparently fit and healthy people, aged 35 or under, in the UK every week.

The Rt Hon Andy Burnham, MP, says: “I am all too aware of the terrible impact that sudden cardiac death has on families across the UK, particularly following the death of a talented and popular young footballer in my constituency.

“Today’s launch marks an important step as CRY continues to push forward cardiac testing in the community, and take positive action to prevent these terrible and often preventable deaths amongst young people.

“Joint initiatives such as this, between health experts, and the world of sport can really help us to make personal cardiac testing accessible to as many young people as possible, and I applaud the ongoing work and commitment of CRY. I also pay tribute to Daniel’s family who have worked with CRY to ensure other families have the support and information that they didn’t. This campaign is in memory of him.”

The FA and PFA introduced a voluntary heart screening programme for 16 year old players attached to a professional football club over 11 years ago.

The Premier League also now undertakes bi-annual cardiac testing for all professional players – including examinations for such things as sounds, murmurs, pulse and arrhythmias.

Medical experts and charity campaigners believe that making screening available to a “grass roots level” could potentially save more young peoples lives.

Chief Executive and founder of the charity, Alison Cox MBE, says; “Andy has been a fantastic supporter for many years. This reception today further demonstrates his commitment to get something achieved in football and the fact that we have to work hand-in-hand with the Government and leading sporting organisations to reduce incidence of young sudden cardiac death.

She adds; “We are delighted that the FA, PFA and Football Foundation will highlight the issue of cardiac risk to the football community and inform people how they can access heart testing if they want it, having weighed up all the information and advice available to them.”

CRY expects to carry out cardiac testing on around 10,000 young adults this year, either via its specialist clinics across the UK or its mobile screening units that regularly visit sports clubs and schools. The simple 10 minute test involves a non-invasive ECG and, if necessary, a follow up echo-cardiogram which is done at the cardiac testing event on the day. This potentially lifesaving procedure is significantly subsidised by the charity, costing each individual who wants the test just £35 for a thorough, diagnostic test as well as peace of mind.

This compares to tests offered by private medical companies often costing hundreds of pounds and therefore inaccessible to many individuals, schools and non-professional clubs. It is hoped that new initiatives, such as the one announced today, will help to increase the choice available to young people.

Health Minister Ann Keen adds; “Sudden cardiac death is a devastating conditon that robs young people of their futures. But it is often preventable. That is why raising awareness among families across the country so very important and I would like to congratulate CRY for their tireless work in this area. It is wonderful to see health experts and sporting organisations coming together to offer potentially life saving tests for young people. I wish the initiative every success and hope it continues to grow.”

Many of CRY’s celebrity patrons come from the world of sport, due to the fact that so many sudden deaths have occurred whilst young, otherwise healthy, people were taking part in the games and physical activities that they loved.

Sir Ian Botham, Sir Clive Woodard, Jeremy Bates, John Inverdale, Pat Jennings and Rob Andrew are all long-standing supporters of the charity as well as former professional footballer Andy Scott who was forced to retire from the game in 2005 after cardiac screening revealed that he was suffering from the potentially fatal condition, Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy.

He says; “There is clearly no reason why a young person should die when they are in the prime of their career and fitness and today’s announcement marks an ideal opportunity for all young players to be screened – it literally only takes 10 minutes to save a life.”