EAST Lancashire athletes have been given a comprehensive health check that could prevent a Fabrice Muamba-style cardiac failure as they bid for Olympic glory.
The four youngsters from the Ribble Valley Athletics Club were given a full heart, lungs and fitness check using the latest hospital equipment to give them, their coaches and doctors an in-depth assessment of current fitness levels.
It gives advance warning of hidden health risks, such as the heart defect which led to the 24-year-old Bolton Wanderers midfielder collapsing on the pitch at White Hart Lane last March.
The check-up gives their coach Don Lennon vital information to devise the best fitness programme for each individual athlete.
He is advising all sports clubs in East Lancashire to make use of the Cardio Pulmonary Exercise (CPEX) equipment at the Royal Preston Hospital.
The information will set training goals for Georgie Smith, Millie Wood, George Nightingale and Lucy Lennon before a two-week altitude training camp in the Pyrenees.
The equipment, used to assess patients before major surgery, looks like a normal exercise bike, but is wired up to technology which assesses the heart and lungs during intense exercise.
Mr Lennon, a UK Athletics performance coach at the club, said: “A group of our young athletes will be travelling to the Pyrenees next Easter to take part in a two-week, high-altitude training camp to expand their heart’s capacity so they can push themselves harder and improve their performance.
“These hospital tests can detect hidden heart and health defects to prevent them suffering a Fabrice Muamba-style collapse in the future.
“We have top-class football clubs in Blackburn Rovers and Burnley and other elite sporting clubs such as Blackburn Harriers and Burnley Bobcats in East Lancashire.
“I hope they too make use of this technology which can do so much for young athletes futures.
“We are hopeful that this training will help take them to the next level and push them towards the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil and beyond.”
Dr Sudheera Reddy, of Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Our equipment is state-of-the-art and comparable to the type used by elite athletes, so we are very happy that it can be used to support these young athletes.”