League: Don't move injured, quadriplegic warns

By Cameron Leslie

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Alex Smits (in striped shirt), Rugby League Northland general manager, helps an injured representative player from the field. Smits says if a suspected serious injured has occurred, call for help. Photo/Ron Burgin
Alex Smits (in striped shirt), Rugby League Northland general manager, helps an injured representative player from the field. Smits says if a suspected serious injured has occurred, call for help. Photo/Ron Burgin

A Whangarei man who broke his neck playing rugby league has urged Northland sports fans to be aware of how to treat an injured player.

Moses Parangi will never know what his life would have been like if his teammates hadn't moved him after his neck was snapped in a rugby league tackle in 1995 in Kaitaia.

Parangi's warning comes as winter sport swings into action, a particular time of year when people's lives can be changed forever through injury.

He was moved by his "mates" because they could not wait for medical professionals to arrive - a definite "no-no" for suspected neck or back injuries.

As a result of their decision, Parangi was left a quadriplegic - meaning he has lost some feeling and strength in all limbs.

"They decided to turn me over and when they turned me over they didn't have my head stabilised, so they pretty much just flipped me on my back and my head swivelled and made the injury worse," Parangi said.

As a result, he can't feel the difference between hot and cold on his body.

"Apparently I was all right and would have been playing next week but my mates couldn't wait for St John's to come so they decided to turn me over."

Parangi and ACC note that moving a player when they have a suspected serious injury can be the difference between the victim making a full recovery or paralysis.

Northland rugby referee education officer Kyal Collins said when a player was suspected to have a serious injury the responsibility lay with the referee to make sure a player wasn't moved, which didn't happen for Parangi.

"Injured players [are] an unfortunate part of our game that often occurs, it is a real concern of mine," Collins explained.

"On field, referees are instructed to immediately stop the game if a serious injury is believed to have happened.

"If a player is suspected of having a serious injury, he is not to be moved until a medically trained person is there to first assess them and then decide on a suitable plan of action to safely remove the player from the field and get them to hospital.

"The game is not restarted until that player is taken care of.

"The game is the last thing that matters from this point on, it's all about caring for the injured player," he said.

"I ensure that the referees are aware of this, they are not to let some bolshie individual push that the player is scooped up unless they have medical training.

"If that means waiting for an ambulance, or in my experience the helicopter, then that is what happens."

He added that referees did undertake training to know what to do in case of a serious injury, the same as coaches - meaning there was no excuse for ignorance in moving injured players.

"Every referee must attend a RugbySmart session each year, the same as coaches. This is a New Zealand Rugby directive that all coaches and referees attend a RugbySmart session, this initiative alone has reduced the incidence of serious spinal injuries from 11 in 2000 [to two currently].

"However, two is too many. This is why the Northland Rugby Union has a concerted programme to ensure referees and coaches attend the [RugbySmart] sessions - a considerable amount of time is spent chasing up non-compliant volunteers."

Rugby League Northland general manager Alex Smits backed up Parangi's concern, saying coaches needed to speak up for help.

"We try to teach people never to move an injured player, if in doubt the most important tool any coach should have is [a cellphone]. If in doubt call out," Smits said.

He added that rugby and rugby league were contact sports and injury generally was an accepted part of it, but people needed to know how to deal with serious injuries.

For more on Parangi's story, see this Saturday's Northern Advocate.

- Northern Advocate

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