Footballing tragedy: How players have collapsed and died playing the game they loved

Footballer Bradley Knapton.
Footballer Bradley Knapton.

Doncaster footballer Richard Hawcroft, who has died tragically after being taken ill while playing football, is not the first to hit the headlines after dying playing the game he loved.

Related story: Friends mourn shock death of Doncaster footballer

Marc Vivien Foe of Cameroon poses before their Confederations Cup semifinal Cameroon against Colombia, in Lyon

Marc Vivien Foe of Cameroon poses before their Confederations Cup semifinal Cameroon against Colombia, in Lyon

The cause of the 31-year-old former Scunthorpe United trainee’s death is still not known.

But others have collapsed while playing football and later died

In Doncaster, Bradley Knapton, of Springwood Road Scawthorpe, died on February 27, 2002 after collapsing while playing football on the pitches at the Doncaster College for the Deaf.

He was aged just 22 and playing for Doncaster College’s Academy team.

An inquest concluded that Bradley’s death was due to natural causes, after samples of his heart tissue revealed a condition called idiosyncratic myocardial fibrosis.

The disease is caused by infection of the heart by a virus, such as a ‘flu bug, that brings about a deterioration in the heart walls.

Bradley’s dad Terry later said: “Bradley was always playing football. He’d train around three to four times a week, and he was always active.

“He came back from coaching football in America and had a few jobs. But he loved sport, so he went back to college to take his coaching badges.

“He was a popular, fun-loving lad, with everything going for him. It’s still a shock, because he had had no medical problems.”

Terry said: “With all his training and sporting activities, it just must have taken its toll on his heart.”

Charity football matches have since been played in his memory.

A year after Bradley’s death former Manchester City and West Ham footballer Marc-Vivien Foe died while playing for his country in an international match.

The 28-year-old Cameroon midfielder collapsed in the second half of his side’s 1-0 win over Colombia in the Confederations Cup semi-final match in Lyon.

Medical and support staff attempted to resuscitate the player on the pitch, before carrying him on a stretcher to the bowels of the stadium, where attempts to restart his heart failed and he was pronounced dead.

A first autopsy failed to establish the cause of the 28-year-old’s death, but a second found he been suffering from a condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

Bolton footballer Fabrice Muamba collapsed on the pitch in a match against Tottenham, but his life was saved by a cardiologist who was at the match.