Lood de Jager grateful for rugby comeback after being sidelined by heart scare

Lood de Jager grateful for rugby comeback after being sidelined by heart scare

Springbok lock Lood de Jager admits he is relieved to still be playing the game after missing the Rugby World Cup due to a heart issue.

The mammoth second-row was diagnosed with pericarditis, which is inflammation around the lining of the heart, a day before the squad announcement for the global tournament.

De Jager was forced to miss the World Cup and was kept on the sidelines until January when he was finally able to return to action in Japan Rugby League One.

The 31-year-old is currently playing for the Saitama Wild Knights and has produced a number of fine performances in Asia this year.

However, the powerhouse forward admits that, had it not been for the Springboks medical department, it could have been very different.

"I was very pleased," he told RugbyPass.

"Credit to the Springbok medical staff. It was misdiagnosed in Argentina. I went for scans there because that is where I picked up the issue. They didn't perform an MRI.

"The doctor said let's make sure when we get back to SA that we didn't miss something. Then they picked up the pericarditis. I'm very thankful. It could have ended terribly."

De Jager's last game before his enforced absence came against New Zealand during the Rugby Championship in July 2023.

The lock missed the final match of that competition against Argentina, but he was part of the squad that flew to South America ahead of a World Cup warm-up with Los Pumas on August 5.

That was where he developed 'worrying symptoms' and was simply unable to train.

"I had a viral infection I wasn't aware of," De Jager said. "I didn't have any fever. I had a few symptoms but kept training and that put the heart under more pressure. Then I ended up with the fluid around the heart.

"I developed symptoms that were worrying in a training session before the Argentina Test in Buenos Aires. It was on the Monday. Five minutes in, it felt like someone was sitting on my chest.

"I couldn't breathe. There was pressure on my chest and it felt like I was suffocating. I walked off the field and told the doctor something was not right.

"Then I did the scans but they did not pick up the pericarditis. I stayed in my room."

After the diagnosis, De Jager had to be patient as any strenuous exercise would have delayed his comeback and potentially made the situation worse.

"If you injure a knee or a shoulder you can still train unaffected parts of the body. You can gym and cardio," he added. "With this, it was full stop. To get back I felt horrendous the first few weeks. It was bad. I was completely out of shape.

"If you've played professionally for 10 years, your body gets used to certain things. Luckily I got it back quicker than I thought I would."