My migraine only began when I was 28 years old. I still remember my first attack vividly. I was driving along the M25 in London when I noticed a flicker in one of my eyes and soon my vision became blurred. My mother has been a migraine sufferer all her life so I had an idea that I was about to have an attack.
I called my mum from my mobile and told her what was happening. She advised me to find a petrol station and pull in and then she would come and pick me up. I pulled into the first station I found, let back the seat and put my coat over my head. My mum arrived shortly and took me home to bed. Later that evening came the nausea and vomiting. That was my first introduction to migraine and it wasn’t very nice.
Having suffered with recurring migraine for a number of years now, I know first-hand the disability it causes. Sometimes people say to me that it’s only a headache. In response to that, I say that “comparing migraine to a headache is like comparing robbing a bank to stealing a pen!”
As a player, I used to get about 6 attacks a year and they usually last for about 24 hours. During my football career, I was lucky that it never caused me to miss a game. I did however miss training on occasion. On one occasion, I was physically unable to phone my manager at Aston Villa to explain what was wrong and my wife had to call in for me. Although the pain and the other symptoms were gone by the next day, I was absolutely shattered and unable to train again. We had a game the next day and I couldn’t even tell the physio at the club whether I could play or not. Luckily, I was fit by the following day and somehow managed to play one of my best games! The manager used to joke that he wished I’d get more migraine attacks if that was the way it made me play!
“Having migraine is not good if you are a professional footballer as it might affect your transfer value and whether teams wanted to buy you and rely on you.” – Tony Cascarino.
One of the first things I looked at was trigger factors. I still haven’t found any. Diet doesn’t seem to be a factor. Late nights don’t seem to be an issue either. When I played in France, I would sometimes drive home to London after a game that ended at 10pm and be fine the next day. Then it could strike after I’d been to bed early some other time. Similarly, alcohol doesn’t seem to be an issue. Neither is stress or pressure. In fact, sometimes, my attacks seem to strike when I’m relaxing or on holiday. I was well known as a footballer for my heading ability and people often wonder if that had anything to do with my migraine. However, that didn’t seem to be a trigger factor either. My patterns appear to be totally random and without pattern.
When I moved to France, I began to get fewer attacks. I put it down to the fact that training was a lot different there and we were encouraged to drink a lot more water as well as to eat healthier in general. I feel that this may have helped in my own case.
When I get an attack, my best bet is to go straight to bed. If I can get to bed asap, it can reduce the impact of my attack. Nowadays I’m getting about 3 attacks a year and they seem to come about in summertime. Recently I suffered my first attack lasting longer than 24 hours.
Tony Cascarino, Patient Story
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