The family of a rugby player who lost consciousness 10 minutes after having his head trampled on during a ruck have spoken out, saying they hope the incident starts broader conversations about head injuries in the sport.
Auckland Suburbs player Adrian Lole, 23, collapsed on June 17 while playing against Ponsonby.
Then on Saturday, another Suburbs club member reportedly had a seizure while playing and stopped breathing.
Latonya Lole, 20, told Stuff her family saw the “scary” event involving her brother from the sideline. After going in for a tackle, he was caught at the base of a ruck and his head was unintentionally stepped on, she said.
He stood up after the ruck and stumbled over to the team’s physio; at first, the family thought he had a hamstring injury. However, after about 10 minutes, he collapsed, fell backwards, and became unresponsive, Latonya said
Her brother was rushed to hospital in critical condition with Lole’s mother Susan accompanying him. But the ambulance had to stop halfway to the hospital to pick up a specialised brain paramedic.
The surgeon told Lole’s family after surgery that a “specific incident in the game” had caused an acute brain injury. Lole is recovering well and awaiting transfer to a facility that specialises in treating brain injuries, Latonya told Stuff.
His recovery is expected to take up to six months.
Adrian’s 26-year-old older sister Anelisa travelled from Australia when she learned about the incident. She claimed that although her younger brother loved rugby since he was 6, it’s unclear when he will be back on the field. He is “just happy to be alive”, she said.
The family said they appreciated the support they’d received from the Suburbs club, Auckland Rugby, and the Rugby Foundation, but also hoped their boy’s experience would spark broader discussions about head injuries and procedures in the sport they all love.
NZ Rugby’s general manager of community rugby, Steve Lancaster, said: “We are aware of the two medical emergencies in Auckland club rugby recently and our collective thoughts are first and foremost with the players, their families and teammates.”
“The New Zealand Rugby Foundation is providing support to the families. We’re conscious that there may be people who are impacted by witnessing these events and we encourage them to reach out to the New Zealand Rugby Foundation directly for support.”
In the second incident at the weekend, players formed a human shield and sang songs in support of their fallen teammate as paramedics performed life-saving CPR on a man who collapsed during a Suburbs club game on Saturday.
A spectator at the match at Shadbolt Park, New Lynn, between the Suburbs premier development side and a Manukau Rovers team, said it was “pretty freaky” to see a player on the ground for the second week in a row.
The man said the player collapsed moments after the final whistle when he was about to join a corridor for the premier side as they ran on the field.
It’s understood the player suffered a seizure and stopped breathing. Spectators performed CPR until paramedics arrives. The player was then taken to Auckland City Hospital in critical condition.