Wigan Athletic old-boy Leon Barnett forced to quit at 32 after heart scare

Leon Barnett
Leon Barnett

Former Wigan Athletic defender Leon Barnett has been advised to retire at the age of 32 because of a heart condition.

The big centre-back, who joined Northampton in May 2017, has been told by medical professionals that it would be unsafe to continue training and playing.

Barnett had been having issues and was sent for further tests following a reaction in the match against Bury at the start of October.

An implant in his chest recorded his heart-rate at “just under 300 beats per minute”, and Barnett admits he is lucky it was picked up in time.

“Straight away Northampton handled it quite well,” he told the Cobblers’ YouTube channel.

“They said ‘we’ll get you in touch with a cardiologist and just go down that route.’

“At that time I didn’t think it was anything too serious.

“I had a device inserted into my chest and that monitors my heart-rate.

“It happened for a second time at the Bury game and after that game once again I started to feel it.

“At that time I’ve got the implant in my chest that tracks my heart-rate.

“I went to the cardiologist and they downloaded the data and they found that my heart-rate was going just under 300bpm, which is unbelievable.

“They said if I was a normal person in a regular job I would have collapsed, fainted, but obviously because you play football you are quite fit, you managed to stay on your feet, so I’m very fortunate they obviously found it and handled it quite well.

“It’s a bit of a shock but it could have been a lot worse.”

Barnett made over 350 appearances during his career and played in all four divisions of the English game for Luton, West Brom, Norwich, Wigan and Bury before joining the Cobblers.

He played 24 times for Northampton before the game in October after signing on a free transfer in May 2017.

“We are all devastated for Leon,” said Northampton manager Keith Curle.

“The medical team made the correct decision to stop all activity, and after testing and second and third opinions, for his own health and safety, Leon has been advised to retire.

“It is very sad news. Leon is not just a good player, but an important figure off the pitch too.

“However, far more importantly for Leon and his family is that this has been diagnosed now and he is fit and well.”

Barnett made over 350 appearances during his career and played in all four divisions of the English game for Luton, West Brom, Norwich, Latics and Bury before joining the Cobblers.

Latics quickly offered their support via social media within minutes of the announcement.

“Best wishes to our former player @LeonBarnettFA, who unfortunately has been forced to retire from playing,” the club tweeted. “You gave us some great memories when you wore the blue and white, Barney.”