Matt Crooks: Northampton Town midfielder on playing sport with epilepsy

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'Nothing can hold you back' - Matt Crooks

"I think I made the taxi driver panic a little bit but he was kind enough to give me a free fare, so every cloud."

Northampton midfielder Matt Crooks has a glass-half-full attitude to living with epilepsy, a condition he was diagnosed with as an academy player at Huddersfield.

The 24-year-old has gone on to play for six clubs - including Scottish Premiership side Rangers - and tells BBC Look East why epilepsy does not have to be a barrier to professional athletes.

'My friend thought I was dying'

Crooks was 18 when he had his first seizure, accompanied by two of his team-mates from the Terriers' youth side following a night out.

"They thought I was playing around at first, but then realised it was quite serious," he recalls.

"I just remember waking up in the hospital, with those two sat by me. They were laughing actually.

"One of them said he actually thought I was dying, which was a bit unfortunate."

Despite the fit, Crooks turned up to a match a few days later, expecting to play, but was told by a physio he could not take to the field.

A brain test then confirmed he had generalised epilepsy, which brought home the severity of the situation.

He added: "At first I was a bit blase, and I think it was when I spoke to my family and a couple of my friends that I took it a bit more seriously."

Leon offers a Legge up

The majority of Crooks' seizures are classed as tonic-clonic, causing him to lose consciousness and froth at the mouth.

"The time I do remember is possibly 45 minutes, an hour, two hours afterwards, where I just feel like I've woken up from a deep sleep and I've got a banging headache," he told BBC Look East.

The former Accrington player was keen to find another footballer with epilepsy, and defender Leon Legge - then at Cambridge - got in touch.

"I remember him saying to just try to go about it as normal as possible, and to keep doing what you're doing," Crooks said.

"That helped me enormously at the time - I don't think he knows that but obviously it just gave me that confidence that I could go on and achieve something."

Crooks takes medication to manage the condition and tries to avoid alcohol, stress and tiredness, the apparent triggers for his seizures.

"I went to Las Vegas with a few of my friends. I took my medication and I was fine, so I think that's the sternest test I've had so far," he joked.

Matt Crooks in action for Northampton
Matt Crooks has netted twice in League Two for Northampton Town this season

Business as usual

Crooks is used to having to adapt to circumstances in his life - both of his parents are deaf and he uses sign language to communicate with them.

He said: "It's not something I've ever been ashamed of or embarrassed about as a kid, I've taken it on and just got on with it.

"My dad's been a central part of me playing football. He played for the Great Britain Deaf Olympics team so he showed me that - even with epilepsy - you can go on and do good things."

His last seizure came more than 18 months ago on the way to a Sunday training session with Rangers - the taxi ride which ended up costing him nothing.

"Obviously I don't know what happened but I remember waking up in the changing room and the lads being around me and just being in and out of it," Crooks said.

A previous episode at a service station led to Crooks falling forwards and knocking a tooth out, while on loan at Hartlepool.

He and his girlfriend have a baby boy due on Christmas Eve, with Crooks practising what he preaches by maintaining a positive outlook on life.

"I know sometimes it can get tough but just go out and live your life, and do it to the best of your ability and just enjoy yourself," he advises fellow sufferers.

"You don't really have a picture of epilepsy - you can't see it - so it can affect anyone. It doesn't define me."