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Jay Bothroyd reveals he had secret health battle and diagnosis during 23 year playing career

Jay Bothroyd reveals to Daily Mail that he had a secret health battle and a worrying diagnosis during his 23 year playing career.

He opened up on having being in pain, having melting skin, seizures and scars, of which some able to be seen and felt ‘like the thickened ridges’ across his arms and legs.

Bothroyd talked about a distressing incident where he lost consciousness while driving and subsequently had a car accident.

He also recalled another occurrence where he found himself confined in a prison cell, with his body covered in his own blood, following an episode where he forcefully struck his head against a wall.

Bothroyd, who is the only known footballer ever to play for England and the Premier League while living with epilepsy, said: “I wish I’d have spoken about epilepsy earlier but I didn’t because I felt that they might give me a short-term contract or pay-as-you-play.

“I’m blessed,’ he says.

“It shows you can achieve anything even if you have epilepsy,’ he says, defiant and proud. But no one else has done what you have, I counter. Thact shows how hard it is. It’s an incredible achievement.

“Oh yeah… I hadn’t thought of it like that.”

He had seizures that would take two days to recover from, losing consciousness with hardly any warning that it is coming.

“His body will convulse violently, his muscles will harden into granite, his jaw will snap tight and his gnashing teeth will lacerate his own tongue. After his seizures are over, his muscles will ache and so will his brain, his mouth will sting but taste nothing. It will take two days’ rest to recover.”

“When I got told that I had epilepsy,’ Bothroyd recalled, ‘the first thing I said was, ‘Can it kill me?’ The doctor said, ’99 times out of 100, no.’ Right, fine. I put it to the back of my mind and did some silly things. I didn’t take medication – not like missing a day’s tablets, I’m talking weeks.”

Bothroyd spoke on another tie he had a seizure: “We went out and had a few beers. Next day it was really hot, but I trained well and felt fine, then was walking back to the hotel and blacked out on top of a car, having a seizure. It was a black car that had been out in the heat all day. My arm singed, and it was lucky my face didn’t. I woke up in hospital, I didn’t know what had happened.

“It was f***ing s*** for months, healing – deep, layers of skin, third-degree burns. It was bad, especially when you’re changing your dressing – you can see the wound is red-raw, but you’re peeling it back. I should have had a skin graft. It was so, so painful – and I continued playing! I had bandages all over my arm and leg. It’s painful when you’re barging someone with no skin.

“I wish I’d have spoken about epilepsy earlier but I didn’t because I felt that they might give me a short-term contract or pay-as-you-play,’ he admits, with only a handful of Bothroyd’s team-mates knowing at the time he was a Cardiff player.

“I never denied it, I just didn’t talk about it. I had to earn a living. I wanted security for myself and my family. There’s probably more footballers out there that have the same condition who won’t say anything.

“Epilepsy affected my performance. There were loads of times I had bad games because of it, when I wasn’t fully focused or I had in the back of my mind a worry like, ‘s***, I haven’t taken my tablets’.

“I once had a seizure and played two days later – because I said I wanted to. They said to me, ‘do you think you’re all right to play?’, and I said, ‘yeah’. They didn’t make me play, but they didn’t say ‘you shouldn’t play’. I scored in that game!

“It’s about results. Back then I couldn’t say, ‘sorry I can’t come in, I’ve had a seizure’ because I think people would have looked at it like a sign of weakness.’

Another secret scar Bothroyd kept quite came courtesy of a police officer.

“I blacked out and drove into the front of a house in Elstree. The police came and flashed a light in my eye. They could see my pupils were big, so they’re thinking, ‘this guy’s on drugs’, and they threw me in a jail cell. I stumbled forward and – bang! – hit my head against the wall. I remember sitting there slumped, then waking up like that. I had a grey jacket on and blood was coming down that.

“Who sleeps like that, upright with their head slumped forward? I wasn’t lying down. I woke up and I was covered in all this blood, and I could feel the cut with my finger. They breathalysed me and tested to see if I was on drugs or DUI, and I wasn’t so they had to let me go. I’ve still got a big scar on my head.”

Bothroyd, at the time playing for Charlton as a 23 year old said on why he didn’t tell police that he had crashed because of a seizure: “Because I thought that if I say it then I won’t be able to play on the weekend.’

“It was just jail, I knew I was coming out the next day.”

In 2017, Bothroyd was recovering in hospital in Japan after collapsing while training with J.League club Consadole.

His career ended after the discovery of a heart condition which required emergency surgery.

He had a seizure in front of his then 18-year-old son, Mace, inside a Japanese taxi. “He was really scared, crying and stuff.”

“I don’t care about my feelings,’ Jay said. “I care about their feelings. I’m upset with myself for having a seizure because I’ve upset my wife and kids.”

While he isn’t scared, he was more concerned by his wife Stella’s reaction, of which she became frightened, confused and helpless.

He is able to try and have more control on his seizures: “That’s the only reason I’ve started being more responsible.”

Bothroyd these days is still in fit condition, having retired three years ago and now hosts a podcast, is a Sky Sports pundit while also playing golf.

In April, Bothroyd and charity Young Epilepsy will host and run a football camp for all children, including those with epilepsy at Trent Park in north London.

“Fear will prevent a person from doing almost anything,” he adds. “We can’t change the past or the condition we have but we can always be positive for our future and still achieve all of our dreams.”

Tickets can be bought for the Jay Bothroyd Premier Football Experience, a day of coaching for children aged 7-11 on the 11th of April with proceeds going to Young Epilepsy.

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