Steve Bennett wants the family of a high school rugby player who died from a head injury during a game to know rugby players in this province have them in their thoughts and prayers.
Bennett, a die-hard rugby fan who has been active in the sport for the past 17 years as a proud member of the Dogs Rugby Football Club based in Mount Pearl, has been living on the west coast for a couple of years and one of the organizers of the Corner Brook Touch Rugby Club.
Mr. Brodie McCarthy, a member of the Montague Vikings in Prince Edward Island, was injured Friday night during a game at the 22nd annual David Voye Memorial rugby tournament.
He was transported by ambulance to Prince County Hospital in Summerside, and then, later in the evening, to Moncton, N.B., where he underwent surgery.
Due to graduate in June, Mr. McCarthy died Sunday.
Bennett knows nothing will change what happened and there’s nothing he can say that will make the pain go away for the family and teammates affected, but he’s played a lot of high-impact sports from hockey to football and he believes rugby is one of the safest sports to play.
He has seen players receive concussions from time to time like you see in other sports but he’s never seen anything as tragic as what unfolded with this young man in all the years he has been on the rugby field.
“The misconception of rugby being more dangerous often comes from the idea that we don’t wear any equipment,” Bennett said Monday afternoon after hearing of the weekend incident.
Rugby players aren’t required to wear protective helmets or shoulder pads. The reason they don’t, says Bennett, is because the sport is designed with safety in mind with what is known as controlled tackling where a player has to wrap their arms around a player and bring them to the ground in a controlled fashion to prevent serious injuries.
At the high school level he knows there are challenges as the sport seems to be emerging across the country, but he doesn’t know the details of what actually happened so it’s hard to know if it could have been avoidable or if it was just a freak accident with nothing that could have been done.
He believes safety is always foremost on his mind when he’s promoting the game to people, whether it’s an adult out for a bit of exercise or a young boy or girl looking to pick up a new sport to see if it’s the right fit for them.
When it comes to youth, Bennett says his focus is always on emphasizing the importance of learning the rules and structure of the game instead of going directly right into playing the game with tackling involved at the outset.
By the time some of the people who play with his touch rugby group decide they may want to get into the tackling side of the game they’ll have a pretty good framework of what the rules are and how to go about playing the game in a safe manner so then they decide if they want to pursue the realm of tackling and avail of coaches who can show them the way.
He’s been around the game a long time and he’s thankful he didn’t witness any major injuries to players, but he wants people to remember that there is always a chance of getting hurt when you step on the field of play in any discipline.
“Anybody who would have any reservations about entering into this sport or any other contact sports would probably want to know there is always that risk,” he said. “There’s always a risk that you’re going to get injured and unfortunately for this young child it was a very serious incident, but again those incidents are few and far between.”