The doctors in America who cleared Sierra Leone international Alhaji Kamara (Pictured) to revive his career in Major League Soccer, with DC United, after being prevented from playing for Swedish side Norrköping because of a heart problem have revealed that European doctors wouldn’t have let him play football any-more.
Kamara had been viewed as one of the most exciting young players in Sweden until, February 2016 when it was reported that he is suffering from a congenital heart disease, a deviation of the coronary arteries which potentially could result in sudden death at the maximal cardiac effort.
The striker was told he had a congenital heart defect. Kamara’s ailment was detected few months after IFK Norrkoping won the Swedish championship last season, its first top-flight title in 23 years.
“Under the condition he has, he’s fit to play,” Allen Taylor, United’s team cardiologist and chief of cardiology at Washington’s MedStar Heart and Vascular Institute, said in an interview.
Matthew Martinez, MLS’s cardiology consultant, concurred. And with his approval, the league allowed United to acquire Kamara for Norrkoping last week at no initial cost.
Kamara, 22, who was left out from playing internationally by Norrköping signed with D.C. United and may be ready to make his debut next month.
“I was always positive,” said Kamara. “If everyone else gives up, I will be the last person to believe.”
The former Johor Darul Takzim striker reiterated “I feel tired because it’s been a long time,” he told Washington post, smiling. “But I’m playing football again, and that is what makes me happy.”
Kamara visited Taylor at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. He underwent a stress test, which monitors heart rhythm, blood pressure and breathing.
“We also looked at the heart muscle in the most detailed way possible – a heart MRI to look for scarring or any sign of problem-related to this,” Taylor said. “We found none. We looked for past signs and potential for problem and found none.
“We’ve gone far beyond what is even the recommended evaluation. It’s all about wanting to be completely thorough.”
Accompanied by United staff members, Kamara visited Martinez at his practice in Allentown, Pa., a 180-mile trip each way.
Martinez submitted his report to MLS, clearing Kamara to join the league.
“He’s been cleared by top cardiologists,” Kasper said, “so we have full confidence” in Kamara’s health and welfare.
“There are risks,” Mork told Sweden’s Sports Expressen newspaper, “but they are minimal.”
As part of the deal, Kamara must undergo heart testing annually.
The initial diagnosis, Kamara said, does not worry him as he resumes his career.
“If I am afraid, I wouldn’t be out there training again,” he said. “They would never give me permission to play if there was any risk.”
So why did one group of medical experts rule him out and another allow him to play?
Taylor, who studied such artery conditions during a 20-year medical career with the U.S. Army, called it an “evolution in thinking.”
He explained that, “over the last 10 years, there has been the advent of other ways to examine the arteries and the heart. And what that has led us to understand is that these things are rather common.”
Taylor went on to say people with deviant arteries run marathons and exert themselves without complication. “The risk seems very small,” he said.
Heart conditions are a sensitive issue for United. Last year, forward Eddie Johnson, a U.S. national team player, was forced to retire because of the risk of cardiac arrest. His case, though, was different than Kamara’s. “Apples and oranges,” Taylor said.
Johnson suffered from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a disease that affects the muscle of the heart and has led to the death of several athletes.
Kamara’s move also comes at a fragile time in the soccer world. Recently, two 26-year-old players died of apparent heart attacks during matches in Romania and Brazil.
Cameroonian midfielder Patrick Ekeng and Jeanine Christelle Djomnang, a Cameroonian women’s goalkeeper, both 26, died of suspected heart problems.
Kamara said he knew of those tragedies but, given his medical clearance, did not give a second thought about returning to action.
“You can wake up healthy and get into your car and something happens,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if, at the hotel where I am staying [in Washington], I look outside and somebody walks and a car smashes them. Do I say I won’t go outside again?”
Kamara said he has no family history of heart problems and, two years ago when Norrkoping loaned him to a club in Malaysia, he passed the same test that flagged his artery condition this winter.
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