Rugby: Teen's death an unfathomable tragedy

By Dylan Cleaver

Daniel Baldwin was a member of the Wellington Football Club. Photo / Supplied
Daniel Baldwin was a member of the Wellington Football Club. Photo / Supplied

The death of Daniel Baldwin, 19, is a tragedy.

It would be close to an unthinkable tragedy if we didn't already know that this has happened before and, inevitably, will happen again.

The closest anybody can come to making sense of the senseless is NZ Rugby's Neil Sorensen, who spoke for everybody when he simply said: "Nineteen-year-old kids aren't supposed to die playing sport."

What the rugby community can do to honour Baldwin, however, is to continue its push for vigilance across every level of the sport, from professional to grassroots, from president's grade to Rippa.

As of yet we are not clear on what caused Baldwin's fatal injury. A statement from Wellington Rugby read: "Although no single incident has been identified as the cause of the player's injury, witnesses have reported the player was involved in a collision during the first half of the match."

After showing signs of distress late in the match, he was removed and attended to, again according to the statement.

It would be dangerous and irresponsible to speculate any further. We must also resist the temptation to lump this traumatic occurrence in with the increasing body of literature around the long-term effects of concussion to make on-the-spot judgements about rugby's safety.

Rugby is genuine in its desire to increase the safety of its players, of that I'm certain, but you cannot fully mitigate risk in a contact sport.

But what you can do is stay vigilant.

Look for signs of distress, particularly after heavy clashes, and remove the player straight away if you even suspect a concussion.

New Zealand Rugby is trialling a blue-card system where a referee can remove a player from the field if he or she suspects a player has been concussed. Coaches have a role to play, as well.

For all we know, Baldwin's injury was so traumatic nothing could have saved him. But the sad truth is there will be others who can be saved by this one simple action.

Where there is rugby played, or league, or football, or BMX or any number of sports, there will be head injuries. They will never be eradicated, though the commitment must remain strong to minimise the frequency of them and maximise the after-care of them.

For now, though, there is a family grieving a devastating loss, and a sporting community anxious to let them know they don't carry that pain alone.

- NZ Herald

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