Hibs manager Jack Ross opens up Scott Allan's heart condition - 'My priority was always Scott’s wellbeing, physically and mentally'
Hibs boss Jack Ross says he sought very clear assurances before he let Scott Allan return to training or matchday action, insisting he did not want to do anything that would put the popular playmaker at risk.
The 29-year-old midfielder has missed a massive chunk of this season and, having chosen to deal with the matter away from the public eye, he spoke out yesterday to confirm he has been diagnosed with the heart condition hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which results in a thickening of the walls of the heart’s chamber and makes it difficult to pump blood in and out and provide the body with enough oxygen, especially during exercise.
Allan hopes that by raising awareness, more players can be screened for the potentially life-threatening condition which claimed the life of Phil O’Donnell during a match in 2007, and led to the collapse of another footballer Fabrice Muamba, in 2012. The Bolton midfielder fortunately survived but the incident brought his playing career to a premature end. And, Ross says he did not want to risk another casualty.
“My priority was always Scott’s wellbeing, physically and mentally. Physically we had to make sure we were doing as much as we could to understand the issue and ascertain if he could return and mentally we did a lot with him at the beginning to keep him involved and keep him busy.
“Him and I spoke regularly at length about all the possibilities and some of those conversations were quite emotional as well. He’s a young man and he’s also a father and we had to speak about all the potential consequences.
“From a management point of view it was another learning experience for me. But it was more about Scott’s wellbeing as a person and his return to health first and foremost.”
When Allan did make his competitive return as a substitute in last month’s semi-final of the Betfred Cup, he had not featured in the first team since August and while he was delighted to see the influential star pushing for a place, Ross said it was incumbent on him to seek as many guarantees as possible from the club medical staff before facilitating his comeback.
“I had to have regular dialogue with them to voice some of my concerns and check what we had to go through. They had to put together a robust plan for Scott, to get him to buy into that and then we all had to acknowledge that we had to fulfil that criteria to be comfortable with it.”
In consultation with specialists in London and New York, a programme was devised by club doctor Duncan Reid and Nathan Ring, Hibs’ Head of Football Science and Medicine, and their staff, and Ross says he ultimately had to trust their judgement.
“Scott, I’m sure, would speak of his appreciation for what they did in terms of putting the appropriate plan in place for him and then building him up, not getting impatient with it and making sure that he was ticking the boxes and genuinely making sure that we weren’t putting him at risk because it was something that I wanted to continually know. I didn’t want to be responsible for putting him at risk and I think we had to make sure we were all comfortable with that.
“We spoke to Duncan at length about it on a number of occasions and then spoke to Scott ourselves. I felt that if the information I was getting from the medical experts was satisfactory and he believed he was in a good place then I had to trust that and we had to put that aside and continue as normal. But, if I had any concerns at that point, I couldn’t have let him in my group, I couldn’t have trained him, so I had to put my faith in both him and the medical expertise we were given.”
Told that he wasn't at any more risk than any other player, “that was the last thing we needed to be comfortable with it”.
Thrilled to see him back in the fold and able to look ahead with positivity, Ross praised Allan’s character but warned fans that they will have to be patient as he does not expect to see the talismanic player back at his best before next season.
“Scott has already shown his resilience with having to deal with being a Type 1 diabetic.
“I probably, rather ignorantly, didn’t appreciate the challenge that can provide for people in general terms, not just professional athletes. But, my understanding of that has increased, and ironically enough that was through the initial period when Scott wasn’t feeling his best.
“People thought it was connected to his diabetes so I tried to get more information on that and speak to people and Scott to get a better feel for the challenges he faced on a daily basis and this has been another challenge for a young man with all the worries that go with it.
“People will always focus on the football part of it, but I think for him the initial worry was about his general wellbeing and that he was ok.
“He’s a very young man so to have that type of worry over your health is not nice and he had to cope with that.”
“I think what this does is put football in perspective, it’s such a big part of people’s lives in Scotland and it dominates a lot of discussion points but it is human beings that are involved so this gives perspective to everyone, to ensure that we don’t get too down in times with some of the challenges that it offers, and in that respect, it has been a good thing.
“As for the resilience aspect, I think Scott has shown that for a long time anyway in terms of the challenges he has faced in his career.”