Rangers defender Connor Goldson has spoken for the first time about how he feared the worst after being told he needed heart surgery.
The Ibrox stopper has previously opened up on the terror he faced when told by doctors he would be risking death if he stepped back onto a football pitch without having a faulty aorta operated on following a routine health check.
But the 26-year-old has now confessed the warning he required a potentially life-saving operation while on the books at former club Brighton back in February 2017 did not come as a total shock because of his family history of heart troubles.
Goldson’s father also underwent heart surgery as a young man while his grandfather lost his life to a heart attack.
The centre-back had to be persuaded to go for the check-up that uncovered his own problem by Seagulls medical staff but once identified, he made a full recovery following surgery.
Now having chalked up 49 appearances for his new club this season with no ill-effects, Goldson hopes to encourage others to confront their own health risks after agreeing to front a campaign launched by charity Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland.
“I’ve never said this before but I was always quite scared of going for the test,” said the Englishman. “My dad had heart surgery when he was young, around 35. Also, his dad died of a heart attack so I was always wary when these tests came along.
“I was scared. I just wanted to pass on them and not go.
“I remember actually telling the physio at Brighton I didn’t want to go for the appointment at the hospital because I wanted to go home and play PlayStation with the lads.
“It was a routine check-up which we were made to go for every two years by Brighton.
“The physio told me it would cost the club £1,500 so I went. A few days later I got the news in that I required an op which was a big shock.
“It’s not the type of thing you want to hear. I was 24 years old, flying high in the Championship at Brighton. How did I feel? Horrible. Scared.
“When you hear that news your first worries are, ‘What am I going to do? Football is all I know’.”
Thankfully for Goldson the prognosis was positive.
His surgeons were confident the former Shrewsbury defender would be back playing within two months once he had undergone the corrective procedure and that is exactly how it transpired.
But in the meantime, he was ordered to stay away from Brighton’s training pitch after being given the gravest of warnings.
“I had to wait seven weeks for the operation and in that time I was told not to do anything,” he explained. “I wasn’t allowed in the gym, I wasn’t allowed to run, I wasn’t allowed to do anything.
“I had what looked like a swollen aorta but they didn’t know if that was actually swollen or had always been like that as they didn’t have previous tests to check it against. But the volume it was showing at, the surgeon was worried it was a risk.
“If it goes, you die straight away. There’s no coming back.
“He didn’t want to take that risk, so we just went on holiday a couple of times and waited. After the op, though, I was back playing within eight weeks.”
It is tribute to the care he was given that Goldson – whose only physical reminder of his traumatic experience is a three-inch scar on his chest – has been able to resume playing duties at the top level.
He was one of new Gers boss Steven Gerrard’s priority signings last summer and has played a vital role in a campaign that saw the Light Blues qualify for the group stages of a European competition for the first time in nine years.
But while Goldson is grateful for the care he received at Brighton, he fears for colleagues not lucky enough to be playing at football’s top level.
In Scotland, Ladbrokes Premiership clubs hoping to compete in Europe are required by UEFA to carry out ECG tests on all players once a year – but there are no mandatory checks required by clubs lower down to the divisions.
Goldson said: “Testing has to be done more often. I was lucky that Brighton do it every two years but at other clubs it doesn’t have to be done.
“In the lower leagues and abroad, I don’t know how often it has to be done but I feel it should be done yearly or a maximum of every two years.
“Us athletes put our body through so much over the course of a season and I think the associations surely have to do more to protect us.
“I’ve played 49 games this season – 50 next weekend against Hearts hopefully.
“That’s exactly what I came here to do. I always knew I could play this amount of games.
“My body has ever let me down and my aim was to come here, play as many games as I could and help this club improve.
“I’m still the similar to how I was before my op. I’m still a sore loser. But this and also having a child has put a lot into perspective.
“If I go home after a loss, it still hurts. But when I see my boy laughing it takes a lot of the pressure away.
“I posted a picture of myself in hospital on the morning of the Old Firm game a couple of weeks back. It was taken two years ago to the day.
“Don’t get me wrong, there wasn’t a boy in the dressing room who wasn’t hurting after that game but when you reflect on what you’ve been though, you can see how far you’ve come.”
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