Australia news April 3, 2012

Casson tells of heart trauma

Beau Casson, the former Australia spin bowler, has spoken for the first time about the heart condition relapse that forced his retirement from cricket.

Honoured by New South Wales at the Steve Waugh Medal presentation in Sydney last month, Casson told ESPNcricinfo of his traumatic exit from the game after he was forced from the field during a Sheffield Shield match against South Australia at Adelaide Oval in October 2011.

That day Casson had felt distressed on the field and fared little better in the dressing room, before being taken to hospital by the Blues chairman of selectors David Freedman. There were echoes in the case of the footballer Fabrice Muamba, who suffered a cardiac arrest during an FA Cup tie between Bolton and Tottenham and has since fought an almighty battle for his life in hospital.

Casson now works as an ambassador for Heart Kids NSW, intent on keeping both sporting participants and their coaches and support staff aware of the many complex permutations surrounding the heart. While not wanting to speak much of the Muamba incident, he said its public nature had provided a reminder of how delicate life can be.

"What happened [to Muamba] was absolutely terrible, but it makes people realise you're not invincible," Casson said. "When it first happened [to Casson in Adelaide] it was incredibly frightening, quite a traumatic event. Personally I found it really hard because naturally I hadn't played my part in the game and the boys were one down, so that's what I struggled a fair bit with.

"It wasn't an ideal time and I'm incredibly happy with the way I've got through it. It was incredibly frustrating, frightening, things were pretty chaotic around that sort of event, but New South Wales I much appreciate their support through it all, and for them to make sure I looked after myself. It wasn't easy that's for sure."

Casson has managed the condition, which makes it difficult for him to lower his heart-rate after it has risen, since his teens. He battled back from a collapse during a Sydney grade game in the 2010-11 season to earn a recall to the Blues' team last summer, however the Adelaide episode forced the closure of his playing days at the age of 29.

"It's always been a challenge for me through my whole career with a congenital heart condition. It's always something I've been incredibly diligent about," Casson said. "I had an episode early last season in club cricket, which once again was incredibly frightening and we sorted out what needed to be.

"But it's an incredibly complex issue and hence the reason why things have happened the way they have. I don't think anyone could foresee the way things would happen. There's obviously been a fair bit written of late in the media about certain people in other sports, and it's just the nature of the condition."

Following his forced absence from the remainder of the Adelaide match, Casson flew home to Sydney where he underwent further tests and spoke with medical experts including his long-time heart specialist. Their decision was for Casson to retire, ending a career that had once shone brightly enough to merit a baggy green cap in 2008.

"I left it to the people a lot brighter than me," Casson said. "I had a series of tests and I was waiting to see what they came back with, and that was that. When you get told both sides of the story when an event like that happens, you have to weigh up exactly where you're at. Their advice was the best thing for me was to stop playing and that's the way it happened."

Studying teaching and also doing some coaching in addition to his ambassadorial role, Casson said the whole experience had given him valuable perspective on life as well as cricket, and he valued its lessons even as he came to terms with the sudden end to his days as a cricketer.

"It was only the other day I was talking to a few younger cricketers about what this great game offers and you learn so much about yourself," he said. "You might have some setbacks in cricket, that you can take out into your university degree or whatever it is, employment.

"You learn a hell of a lot about yourself and how to deal with certain situations, and I've had a few situations I've been able to deal with and it's given me a lot of insight and strength for the future to be even tempered and be able to take the good day with the bad days. Like any cricketer, that's probably the most challenging aspect of the game."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here