How team sports can benefit you

David Webb

Playing a sport can help you keep fit and, as Dave Webb tells Lisa Kjellsson, the camaraderie provides vital support when you have a heart condition.

“It keeps you motivated, as you fall into a routine of going to regular training sessions,” says BHF Physical Activity Specialist Lisa Purcell. “If you’re doing something on your own, it’s easy to skip a session. Team sports are brilliant because you have a responsibility to turn up.”

Dave Webb, an IT contractor, took up hockey in his early 30s after leaving the Royal Air Force, when he heard about a team looking for a goalkeeper. Almost two decades later, he’s still playing competitive hockey despite having undergone heart bypass surgery.

Dave, 59, was diagnosed with angina in 2009 after experiencing breathlessness while on holiday. His doctors initially told him he’d need a stent, but when they went to fit it, they decided he would need a quadruple bypass instead. He feared it would mean the end of his career playing competitive hockey for Cirencester.

Team sports are brilliant because you have a responsibility to turn up

Many of his teammates visited him while he was unable to play. “They supported me by encouraging me to get fit,” says Dave, who returned to playing hockey 12 weeks after surgery, with his surgeon’s consent.

Six months after his surgery, he was selected for the over-55s England team. “It took about two and a half months before I felt like my old self again,” he says.

“I didn’t think I would get back to the standard that I had achieved before my surgery. However, I was determined to get myself back to fitness as soon as possible.”

Dave played in the 2010 FIH Masters Hockey World Cup in Edinburgh and again in this year’s tournament in Rotterdam, in which the over-55s team beat the Netherlands in the final. “To play for the veterans and win the World Cup is amazing,” he says.

How rugby has benefited Lydia Plaza

Lydia Plaza - Rugby playerHaving a heart condition hasn't stopped Lydia, 19, from playing rugby.

Playing as part of a team can also help expand your social network. “Recreational sports are particularly good because of the social support and the confidence they give you,” says Purcell.

Lydia Plaza, 19, is a case in point. When she started at the University of Northumbria, she joined the rugby team. “It makes me want to eat healthily and look after myself,” says the Derby native. “The social side is great too; I’ve made lots of really good friends.”

Lydia, who studies international business management and Spanish, goes to the gym regularly and attends rugby training twice a week. She also suffers from occasional episodes of a rapid heart rate that can last for hours. When she was first diagnosed, Lydia worried she wouldn’t be able to continue with rugby, but the cardiologist assured her that her episodes of rapid heart rate were not life threatening or related to physical activity. Lydia is currently being assessed to decide whether she will need a cardiac ablation or regular medication.

Joining the rugby team is the best thing I've done

In the meantime, her teammates watch out for her if she feels unwell. “One time during training, I had to go to hospital to get an ECG – my teammates took me and were really worried,” she says. “When I told them about my diagnosis, they didn’t want me to play. Now, if I feel like it’s going to start, they tell me to sit down and really look after me.”

Lydia says her teammates have been a fantastic support network. “We all go to the gym and training together,” she says. “They’re some of my best friends.”

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