The 22-year-old Belgian defender Lars Dendoncker announced last week that he was retiring from football due to a heart condition, thus making him the second Brighton player to retire because of heart problems in less than a year.
Dendoncker, the younger brother of Leander Dendoncker of Aston Villa and the Belgian national team, announced his retirement on Instagram, saying “this was and will be the hardest decision ever in my life” and that it “really hurts”. He was signed by Brighton & Hove Albion on a two-year contract in 2020 and played for the Scottish side St Johnstone for a year on loan.
Although Dendoncker has only now made his retirement official, he in fact already stopped playing football over a year ago after being diagnosed with myocarditis. In an Instagram post from last December, he wrote:
I have been through tough times the past few months. Six months ago I was about to make a transfer to a new club. I did my medical and something wasn’t right with my heart condition. I suffered from myocarditis.
Six months earlier will have been in May, not long before the unfortunate Dendoncker’s contract with Brighton was set to expire.
Last October, the Brighton midfielder Enock Mwepu was also forced into retirement by a heart condition. At the time, the condition was described as congenital. But when Mwepu first started feeling unwell and was rushed to the hospital just two weeks earlier while on a trip to Mali, the problem did not sound congenital. Thus, in his own September 26th Instagram post, he noted cryptically that doctors, and presumably he himself, were not at liberty to disclose the details of “what really happened”.
Mwepu’s words are reminiscent of remarks made by the American basketball player Brandon Goodwin. In mid-2021, while playing for the Atlanta Hawks of the NBA, Goodwin fell ill after being vaccinated against COVID-19 and was subsequently diagnosed with blood clots.
Goodwin himself attributed his condition “1000%” to the vaccine. But in a Twitch video, he described how while in the hospital a team official told him “Don’t say anything about it, don’t tell anyone” – to which he responded, “Bruh, what?” (The video appears to have been removed from Goodwin’s Twitch account, but relevant excerpts are still available on the Daily Caller here.)
Brighton is not the only major football club to have had multiple players stricken by cardiac problems in the last two years. So too did German powerhouse Bayern Munich, though the Bayern players have since returned to action: French winger Kinsley Coman after undergoing heart surgery in September 2021 and Canadian defender Alphonso Davies after being diagnosed with myocarditis in January 2022.