A rugby accident which stopped a promising young sportsman in his tracks didn't dampen Lars Andrews' love of sport. Lars, 49, from Chichester, UK, suffered temporary paralysis following a rugby accident in his teens whilst representing his county of Sussex. From that day on his world changed, but he used his accident to motivate him to do good. After extensively studying exercise physiology, psychology and physical therapy to help himself get back to health, he worked as a PT Instructor to adults with both physical and psychological disabilities and on many academic accomplishments, including a Masters Degree in Cardiology. Now he encourages those with cardiac conditions to get back into health, and even run Marathons and Ironman Triathlons. This is recorded in his book CARDIAC ATHLETES: Real Superheroes Beating Heart Disease, which brings together a host of stories from those with heart conditions who have gone on to become successful sportsman. Lars said: "I broke my neck playing rugby, that put an end to my competitive sports days." He spent more than 20 years working in cardiology departments in the UK and Australia and giving lectures to cardiac rehabilitation patients as a Chief Cardiac Physiologist. It was because of these experiences that he set up a website called Cardiac Athletes, a place where athletes with heart conditions can talk to each other on a global forum and gain advice. It was here that the incredible stories of victims of heart disease came together from all over the world, fighting to overcome illness and get back to their previous level of fitness, or even better than they were before. These stories kick-started his idea to compile a series of short, inspirational stories about Cardiac Athletes into a book. The phrase, and consequently the name of his book, 'Cardiac Athletes' stemmed from a conversation Lars overheard between two doctors. He was angered by their description of this patient, as through his knowledge of psychology he knew the power behind words can disempower a person when used in this way and in a eureka moment came up with cardiac athlete. Lars explains: "One day at work I passed by two junior doctors discussing a patient as a 'Cardiac Cripple' and remembering my own comeback from paralysis, it enraged me and all day I puzzled over what would be the exact polar opposite ... and then it hit me ... a "CARDIAC ATHLETE" ! His belief in patients trying to overcome illness and disability motivated him to create this book. In the book's preface he said the book was 'for anyone seeking inspiration' and for 'anyone with a heart'. Lars gathered stories from all over the world, from the USA to India. Each athlete shares their journey from the discovery of their problem, through its diagnosis and treatment, and the long-term consequences. They give honest accounts of how it feels to have your life changed by heart conditions, and how they manage to get back to sports. Lars set up Cardiac Athletes Trust Fund, which has so far raised money to buy AED defibrillators for sports clubs but he wants to also buy baby heart monitors and heart screening sessions for young athletes to protect them against SCD - Sudden Cardiac Death on the sports field. The global cardiac athletes organisation now has thousands of registered forum members and Facebook members from around the world. Marathons, ironman competitions and various other sporting events have been completed by the members of Cardiac Athletes. Despite a setback early in life, this hasn't stopped Lars from helping others, and to continue to do so. By Larry Creswell, MD. July 6, 2014 .
Hot off the press is a new book by Lars Andrews, entitled simply, Cardiac Athletes. I had a chance to read the book over the July 4th holiday weekend and I thought I'd share some details here at the blog. I enjoyed the book and recommend it highly. Lars Andrews is the founder of Cardiac Athletes, the worldwide support community for athletes with heart disease. I've written previously here at the blog about the organization's many activities. You can find them online at their website and also on Facebook. If you're an athlete with heart disease, you'll find an active online forum that helps athlete patients make useful connections with others in similar circumstances. On the charitable front, the organization raises money to support donation of automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) to communities in need and to support cardiac screening programs for athletes.This new book will be good reading for a variety of folks-athletes, of course, with heart disease; healthcare workers who care for these athlete patients; and pretty much anybody who enjoys reading inspirational personal stories from athletes.Andrew LaGerche, MBBS, PhD, a physician-scientist, himself a talented endurance athlete, and with a long professional interest in athletes and heart disease, writes a great Foreword. In the Preface, Andrews details the history and evolution of the Cardiac Athletes organization and sets the stage for the remainder of the book. The Introduction features his take on 10 repeating themes that will be found in the athlete stories: cardiac athletes are pioneers; we need sports cardiology centres; are we starting to see a post athletic epidemic?; would preschool screening be bad?, among others.The bulk of the book is a collection of the personal stories from 17 athletes affected by heart disease. Each athlete shares his/her journey from the discovery of their problem, through its diagnosis and treatment, and the long-term consequences. In many cases, there are illustrations which bring clarity to the specific heart problem being described. This is very helpful to non-medical readers who won't be familiar with the details. Each chapter is a rare, honest look at how these athletes approach sport in the context of heart disease. These stories are just very real. At the end is a useful glossary of terms that will make the book more accessible and also a useful reference, or reading list. July 6, 2014 By Larry Creswell, MD.