Macclesfield's Richard Butcher died from heart condition
A professional footballer who was found dead in his bed died from a rare heart condition, a coroner has ruled.
Macclesfield Town midfielder Richard Butcher was discovered dead at his flat in Swinton, Salford in January.
The Northampton-born player, 29, had suffered chest pains in the past three years, Bolton Coroner's Court heard.
In a narrative verdict, assistant deputy coroner Peter Watson said Mr Butcher died from natural causes due to a naturally occurring heart condition.
"All deaths are tragic but especially in cases with someone so young and on the face of things he was a very fit and healthy young man, it is so sad that on the balance of probabilities he died from this cardiac condition," Mr Watson said.
'Fit and professional'
A post-mortem examination showed he died of natural causes and there were no signs of heart disease.
The player suffered from the condition cardiac arrhythmia - where the heart either beats too slow or too fast.
Mr Butcher's wife Sarah told the hearing he "dedicated his career to maintaining his health and fitness".
"He used to delight in that the younger players would remark on how fit and professional he was," she said.
Mrs Butcher said her husband had complained of chest pains on and off for about three years.
"Every now and then he would clutch his chest and then the pain would disappear," she said.
"He would say 'I'm so fit and healthy, it's fine' and he would dismiss it really."
He underwent a series of heart tests in Lincoln in November 2009, after collapsing after a night out when he had only drunk three bottles of beer.
Mrs Butcher said that he clutched his chest while working on a university assignment at his computer three days before his death, but again had shrugged it off.
Pathologist Dr Simon Suvarna said such deaths were rare and that either they occurred with no warning or with previous symptoms of fainting episodes. Chest pains were not common as an indicator, he said.
He said the death may have happened while Mr Butcher was asleep or had just woken but he would not have been aware or felt any pain.
Mr Butcher, who also played for Kettering, Oldham, Peterborough, Notts County and Lincoln City, was described by Macclesfield Town as "a total role model for young professionals".
The club, where he had played for a year, were concerned when he did not arrive for training on 10 January. He was later found dead.
Paying tribute, his father Richard said: "He was a lovely, lovely lad. As fit as anything.
"He always wanted to be a footballer, like every schoolboy does."
His brother Glenn added: "I couldn't imagine him doing another job. He tried a couple of times having normal jobs but he never lasted more than a day."
Mr Butcher had planned to become a physiotherapist after his playing days, his family said.