The History of Cardiac Athletes

How an idea ‘evolved’…

My appreciation for anyone trying to overcome a disability began way back in 1981 when I broke my neck whilst playing U16 Sussex County rugby. I knew nothing of correct diet or recovery and I was over-training. All the warning signs were there but I ignored them. Luckily I had only temporary paralysis but needed surgery to re-attach my head to my neck.

A Mr Brian Elliott, consultant orthopaedic surgeon performed the Cloward procedure (surgery pioneered by a Dr Ralph Cloward at Pearl Harbour) and fused my C6/C7 cervical vertebrae. This brought an end to my rugby days.

I started reading books on exercise and physical therapy and rehabilitating myself in the coming weeks, months and years. I was not an academic before the injury but had to become one now that sports were out, for a while anyway.  I built my own home gym in my mothers back garden and set about turning my life around.

College

At first, my choice of college subjects was selfish. I chose topics such as human biology, psychology and Physical Education purely to help myself get back to some level of health, fitness and confidence.

I thought at first that I would become a sports coach and so started a BA (Hons) Degree in Sports Studies/Science, but later realised I wanted to help others to help themselves more. I chose to work as a sports activities instructor, with adults with learning disabilities, Down’s, Autism, Cerebral Palsy, etc.I completed a course with the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and became a Certified Health and Fitness Instructor in Preventive and Rehabilitative Exercise Programming working in a Sports Centre.

Then I discovered by chance the work of Cardiac Technicians as they were then called within the NHS. I needed more regular working hours and so started to write to every hospital in the country, this was during a recession so there were very few vacancies. I was kindly offered a place as a trainee at Conquest Hospital, Hastings.

Whilst at Conquest I was invited to help with the excellent Cardiac Rehabilitation program there. I gave talks to 20–30 heart patients twice per month on “Safe & Effective Exercise“.  My final year Dissertation looked at the effectiveness of Conquest’s Cardiac Rehabilitation program.

“Cardiac Cripples”

One day I overheard two junior doctors discussing a patient they referred to as a “Cardiac Cripple”

I had a greater respect and appreciation for anyone trying to overcome an illness or disability. I didn’t share these doctors belief that some people are just hopeless cases…

…and just for the fun of it I started to ask myself… what would be the exact polar-opposite of a ‘Cardiac Cripple‘?

Wouldn’t it be a:

” CARDIAC ATHLETE ?”

Cardiac Athletes

In 2001 I created the Cardiac Athletes running man in heart logo in conjunction with Russ Bestley.

I applied for the Trade Mark for this which was granted 18 April 2002. Together with Russ I decided to produce a newsletter and called it ‘The Association of Cardiac Athletes Newsletter’ to try and bring this special group of people together.

This was sponsored for a while by Medtronic. It proved popular but as the internet was developing I realised that this would offer access to a wider audience and so started to make enquiries into how a Cardiac Athletes website could be created.

Website and Forum

On 19 September 2001 www.cardiacathletes.org.uk domain was first registered and on 21 September 2001 the Cardiac Athletes website went ‘live’ for the first time.

I started to receive emails from people all over the world and realised I needed to create a Forum so that people could talk to each other directly. I looked at a number of Forum packages from various companies and decided to go with what I considered to be the best at that time. On 2 February 2006 the Cardiac Athletes Forum was launched.

To help with advertising the existence of the site and at the same time raise some money to help me pay for the up-keep and development of the website I added two free on-line Shops, one in the USA and one in Europe.

Members were beginning to offer to pay toward the continuation of the website and so I added a Donations page in March 2007. This now covered the running costs and any development costs of the site. But as there was beginning to be a ‘slush fund‘ left over I thought how best this could be used.

I decided to put some of this money to one side with the hope of purchasing AED’s for sports centres. Effectively ‘closing the circle‘… heart patients saved by AED’s donating toward paying for AED’s which will save more heart patients lives… this seems to make logical sense and remains one of my key goals and is shared by many of the members of this website.

Some questions on the Forum were repeating… i.e. what should be a Max HR, etc, so in March and April 2007 I decided to add a number of ‘Calculator Tools’ so that people could do this simply and accurately for themselves.

The Forum package I purchased for this website turned out to be a very good one with many excellent features. One function I found very useful and informative for both myself and the members was the ability to add Survey Polls.  This has already opened up some interesting areas for further research and investigation.

As well as having extensive experience in all areas of cardiology including electrophysiology, echocardiography, angioplasty and resuscitation, in 2010 I was fortunate to be a member of the CRY (Cardiac Risk in the Young) team who screened members of the 2012 British Olympic Team.

In 2011 I (Lars) moved to Victoria, Australia from the UK.

Sadly the CA Forum was hacked in 2012 and took many months to fix. In this time members moved over to a Facebook group which has grown rapidly and is at this moment adding 3 to 5 new members every day.

Finally I have managed to move all elements of this internet group into one local company and one server.  The present website you are viewing is the latest development.  I have much more planned.  Much to improve.  Watch this space.

Meeting Members

In 2007 a number of members met up for the first time and ran together, some in relay teams, in the Akron Marathon, USA. This proved to be a very popular thing to do and so other meetings and sporting events have been arranged since then in the UK, USA and Australia.

In 2010 Cardiac Athletes had enough money from external donations and from the members own fund-raising events and sponsorships to buy our first AED (Automated External Defibrillator) which was presented to the Emergency Services in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA. We aim to buy more AED’s over the coming years and distribute these around the world.

If you would like to contribute to this fund then please Make a Donation. Thank you.

Read about The Pioneers of Cardiac Surgery and Rehabilitation.

Read about our Team Achievements.