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Jay Bothroyd regrets keeping his epilepsy a secret

Jay Bothroyd

A former Wolves and Cardiff player has said he wishes he had been open about his epilepsy during his football career.

Jay Bothroyd made his only England appearance in 2010, but never told any of his fellow players he was suffering a number of seizures.

The ex-Arsenal trainee played professional football for two decades, although he was too nervous to go public with his condition in the fear he may have been asked to leave the team.

Bothroyd was diagnosed with epilepsy when he was 18, now at the age of 41 he has spoken about the fear he had about trying to keep his secret from players in case his career was cut short.

He told the Mail Sport’s podcast, It’s All Kicking Off: 'When I had my first (seizure) I was in my teens, so when I first came around I said "can I die from this" and (the doctor) said "no"

'So I asked "will it affect my football career", and he said "not if you manage properly".

At first Bothroyd hoped the seizure was a one-off, but as time went by his epilepsy started to progress.

‘I thought I would just put it to the back of my mind and carry on as normal, and that's what I did,’ he told hosts Ian Ladyman and Chris Sutton.

'They gave me my tablets, but at the time I had no interest in it, I just wanted to play football, I want to enjoy it. It had never happened before and it might never happen again.

'But as I got older and started playing more regularly, I started having the seizures more regularly, and that's when I realised I had to start managing it better, start taking my medication on time all the time, it was difficult because I kept it to myself, nobody knew about it.'

Describing his symptoms, Bothroyd said: 'I can describe the ones as I got older better, because I paid better attention to it. For example, my seizures come about when I get a lack of sleep, when I don't take my tablets, if I've had a few drinks or if my body gets exhausted, which happens in football.

'For me that's when I was really susceptible to having them. I could feel a blackness behind my eyes, my eyes weren't really focused, I felt exhausted, but I always felt like I need to get home, get my head down and need to sleep. If you can sleep you can avoid it, and you've got to hydrate as well, so as I got older I learned to manage it.

''I was biting my tongue, I was having a seizure, sometimes my mouth was frothing, sometimes you can have absent seizures which last much longer, but most of mine were one or two minutes.

'An absent seizure is where we might be talking and I would just be staring back at you nodding, I can hear what you're saying but it just makes no sense to me. I might make out like I'm bantering you to make out that I'm normal, but absent seizures can last a day and a half, two days sometimes.

'I played football matches a day after a seizure and I don't remember the matches at all.' 

Bothroyd explained how ‘scary’ it is living with epilepsy, not just for him, but also his wife, children and parents.

Every training session, every game, he was worried something would trigger a seizure in front of his teammates.

'Luckily for me it never did happen on the pitch,' Bothroyd told the presenters. 'I only had one seizure on the training pitch and that was at the end of my career when I was in Japan, and that is on video.

'Maybe one day if it might help people understand I might release it, to let people see what a seizure looks like. It's very private, people don't like you to see what it looks like, but maybe I'll do that in the future to show those people what a seizure is like.'

'I needed the security of my contract, I didn't want my clubs to turn their backs on me.

‘You're going to a club and you're discussing your contract, you don't want one-year contracts, you want three or four years really, you want that security, and I just felt like if I said something it would be one of those issues where some says 'we'll give you a one-year deal and see how it goes. 

'I didn't want to be in that situation because I was worried about the security of myself and my family. I would tell them afterwards, when I'd go in with the physio and tell them I don't feel great but it's player-doctor confidentiality.

'It was one of those situations where I wanted to play so I didn't say anything.'

He added: 'It's like any other injury - if you do your hamstring and you say 'I feel ok', you're still going to go out there and play. That's what it was for me.’

Recalling a match a day after having a seizure Bothroyd said: ‘I went out there and I played.

'I don't know if I had the best game, but I don't remember anything about the game. 

'The only way I know now is by looking at pictures.'

[ Today, 26th March 2024, is Purple Day, raising epilepsy awareness - for more information visit the Epilepsy Action website. ]

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