RUGBY Union is a sport that inspires many young players, especially one in particular.
Sam Thomson, 18-years-old from St Helens, has been playing rugby since he was a young child and became captain of the West Park Senior Colts rugby team.
In an unfortunate rugby accident, he sustained a very serious head injury during a game against Anselmians RUFC.
Due to the seriousness of the injury both teams agreed on abandoning the game and gave Sam a clap of respect and honour as he left in the ambulance.
Sam then spent three days in the Walton Centre for Neurology and Neurosurgery at Aintree Hospital, where he eventually regained full consciousness and under-went an MRI scan. He then spent nine to ten weeks out of playing rugby and focusing on making a full recovery.
The referee, Ray Galloway, explained the series of events during the accident: “Sam was playing in the fly half (No.10) position and was the captain of his team, West Park senior colts. They were playing a league game against Anselmians senior colts on the lower pitch at West Park.
“The pitch was in excellent condition and the incident occurred 34th minute of the first half, when the score was West Park 7 Anselmians 17. The game was at a very good standard, the players had a competitive and enthusiastic spirit.”
Ray, the referee of the game continues to explain the events of the accident: “The injury occurred during an Anselmians attack, just outside the West Park 22 metre area, in the centre of the pitch.
“An Anselmians player ran forward with the ball, Sam, who was forming part of his team’s defensive line, tackled him around the waist, moving to his right as he completed the tackle. At the same time, a fellow defender, Jacob Webster, who was playing as a centre (No.12) and was alongside his team-mate in the defensive line, also tackled the Anselmians player.
“As the tackle, which was completely legal in its execution, Sam was hit in the head by the hip of his team-mate and then fell to the floor, concussed. I was immediately alongside the incident and had a clear and unobstructed view of the collision.”
After immediately stopping the game, the referee, Ray describes the severity of the incident that occurred before him: “It was clear to me that Sam was completely unconscious. He did not respond to any verbal prompts. I carefully removed his gum shield as it was impeding his breathing; it was an essential act to ensure that his airway remained clear.
“Sam remained on his back, but continued to fail to respond to any verbal prompts. I then requested that an ambulance be called without delay.
“Sam’s father was the coach of the West Park team and he came onto the field of play when I requested first aid assistance.”
Each minute that went by without Sam re-awakening, the severity of the injury increased.
Within the spectator crowd was a parent who is a paramedic, Ray describes how his medical help was vital: “Mr Sharp volunteered to assist with the physical care of Sam. It was clear that his expertise and experience would be of benefit in terms of the appropriate care for Sam.
“Sam had been unconscious for 14 minutes when the paramedic ‘first responder’ arrived, followed later by an ambulance.
“His head, neck and back were secured and he was placed onto a spinal stretcher and removed to Aintree Hospital, where there is a specialist head trauma unit.”
Sam spoke about his injury and what he had to face during the recovery process: “The last thing I remember, before the accident happened, we scored and I turned and ran back into position, but I can’t remember anything after that.
“I remember coming out of West Park in the ambulance, when everyone was clapping. I could hear chatter in the ambulance about which hospital we were going to, but when we got to the hospital that was very blurry, although I remember getting my bloods taken.
“I was sick a couple of times and felt groggy, I didn’t really know what was going on. Especially when I got in the ambulance I didn’t know where I was because all I could see is the roof of the ambulance.
“It’s affected me mentally now I’m back playing, definitely. Before the match I prepare myself, always have something to eat, stay hydrated and I always wear a head-guard and gum shield, mainly focus on my own safety is a big aspect of it.
“I have a slight fear of going into any game now especially, because this accident is always in the back of my mind.”
For a fifth season running Concussion continues to be the most common and high-risk match injury.
Twenty-five percent of all match injuries are concussions in both premiership and amateur rugby union, yet over seventy percent are obtained in a tackling process.
This specific type of injury has become a hotly discussed issue in Rugby Union, James Coxon from Headway – the brain injury association said: “Concussion can often be difficult to identify and yet at Headway, we know the damage that can caused if people continue to play sport while concussed.
“There is no way to 100% prevent concussions but you can introduce measures which limit it and manage it when it occurs.
“A great deal has been achieved in the past few years to improve concussion protocols, with the emphasis being placed on professional sport to set a good example for others to follow.
“But we believe everyone who plays sport should be concussion aware – particularly those at grassroots level who are playing purely for the love of it and do not have ambulances and doctors on standby should something go wrong.”
Rugby is a sport where the players are enthusiastic to play at every level, despite being aware of the risks.
But ultimately, the ‘warrior’ element of the game as that is what makes rugby, rugby.