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Graeme Souness: Former footballer on his health battle – ‘how had this happened to me?’


Graeme Souness was an exemplar of sporting greatness throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Graeme was the captain of the successful Liverpool team of the early 1980s, player-manager of Rangers in the late 1980s and captain of the Scotland national team. Despite being in his prime, the former footy star’s health plummeted while managing Liverpool Football Club in 1991.

“I kept thinking ‘how can this happen to me?’. I looked after myself in terms what I ate and drank and had trained from the age of 15 – I trained as vigorously as a professional athlete. I didn’t carry any weight, I never had done. How had this happened to me?”

Graeme had two uncles who had died in their thirties due to heart disease and his father had recently been diagnosed with coronary artery disease, suggesting Graeme’s condition was genetic.

Graeme continued: “I didn’t have the obvious symptoms that there was something badly wrong with my heart so I’m so glad I got checked when I did. It’s because of this that I’m here 30 years later.

“If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. At that time I was a very fit, young man. If you’re concerned about your family history, go and get checked. You must get yourself checked.”

Despite Graeme’s surgery going well, on day ten of recovery he collapsed due to an infection and needed fluid drained from his lungs. This meant he was in hospital for a month.

Graeme continued: “Having open heart surgery tests you mentally and physically but for me it was mostly mental. I don’t mind admitting it now, but it was difficult for me. I felt extremely vulnerable and suffered a series of panic attacks during my recovery time.”

He added: “No one warned me that I would have psychological issues as a result of this surgery and the change of life it gave me. Whilst I gave it my all at work, I remember sitting having dinner at home, or being in bed with tears rolling down my cheeks.”

Heart problems would bedevil him again decades later.

In 2015 Graeme suffered a heart attack and has since become a British Heart Foundation (BHF) ambassador.

He has been involved in numerous campaigns and events as well as visiting BHF research labs.

Heart disease – symptoms to spot

Signs and symptoms can include:

  • Chest pain, chest tightness, chest pressure and chest discomfort (angina)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain, numbness, weakness or coldness in your legs or arms if the blood vessels in those parts of your body are narrowed
  • Pain in the neck, jaw, throat, upper abdomen or back.

“Coronary artery disease symptoms may be different for men and women,” notes health body the Mayo Clinic.

“For instance, men are more likely to have chest pain.”

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