A last-minute goal or a dodgy VAR decision are both guaranteed to raise the blood pressure of footy fans but this Christmas a new project will use football as a way to offer checks for those at risk of high blood pressure and heart problems.
The innovative “BP+” scheme is a partnership between the local Surrey NHS, Surrey Football Association and Surrey County Council that will see a blood pressure and pulse checking stall set up at Surrey’s next Walking Football League meeting in Elmbridge on Thursday December 12.
High blood pressure can lead to a range of serious complications including heart failure, stroke and dementia, with older people being particularly vulnerable. While undiagnosed atrial fibrillation (AF) increases the risk of stroke by five times.
This is why the NHS will be setting up checks on the next match day in Elmbridge, meaning the walking football players, who are mainly over fifty, will be able to get checked before they pull on their boots.
Project bosses are now calling on football clubs across the country to offer similar stalls for fans to get health checked on match days.
Walking football is a slow-paced version of the beautiful game aimed at getting players back involved in the sport, a fitness opportunity for those with less mobility and a chance to socialise for older people who may be feeling lonely or isolated. It’s non-contact and anyone that sprints, runs or jogs while the ball is in play will be penalised with a free-kick awarded to the other team.
Simply playing one hour a week, for three months, enables players to cover 30 miles and burn 4,200 calories.
Dr. Claire Fuller, GP and Senior Responsible Officer at Surrey Heartlands, said: “The festive season is all about friends and family and one of the best presents we can give them is making sure we are fit and healthy.
“I’m delighted that we’re now kicking off this part of the BP+ project, something that will help us spot health problems before they become more serious. But it’s not just about players, we want to reach fans too.
“Football clubs already do some great community work but it would be great to see all clubs working with their local NHS to offer on-the-spot checks for the thousands of fans passing through the gates every week.”
Mike Gilham, Surrey FA’s Head of Participation & Development commented: “We are delighted to be able to collaborate with Surrey Heartlands on this project. There are thousands of players participating in the game across the county, and with research demonstrating the benefits of physical activity on health, the collaboration was a logical move.
“We hope that by bringing health checks to pre-existing activity, we can add value to our players and hopefully improve their health along the way.”