Rugby player died from brain injury a month after heavy tackle, inquest hears

Written by on August 26, 2015 in Concussion Articles

A young rugby player whose dream was to encourage more women into sport died from severe brain injuries more than a month after she was hurt during a game, an inquest has heard.

Sarah Chesters, 23, was playing for Longton RUFC on 19 October last year when she was tackled to the ground minutes into the second half of the match by an opposition player from Dudley Kingswinford. Despite complaining of a pain in her collarbone, the 5ft 2in full-back managed to walk off the pitch and declined to go to a hospital for treatment.

In the following weeks she continued to make a daily two-hour commute from her home in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, to London where she worked as a research intern for the campaign group Women in Sport.

But Chesters, a masters graduate, started to feel dizzy after arriving at work on 13 November. She visited a walk-in centre and was advised to take several days’ rest. That night, her family made an appointment with an out-of-hours GP, but before she could get there Chesters was violently sick and was rushed to Royal Stoke University hospital instead.

Tests later revealed she had suffered a stroke. Her condition worsened and she died on 21 November after coming off a life support machine.

Simon Shaw, a consultant neurosurgeon, told North Staffordshire coroner’s court that Chesters’ death was caused by multiple brain infarctions. He told the inquest on Monday that the initial trigger was likely to have been the blunt trauma to the side of the neck received in the rugby tackle, which caused damage to an artery, and then a blood clot led to the stroke.

Sarah’s father, Michael Chesters, said his daughter had loved rugby since she was introduced to it while studying at Manchester Metropolitan University. She had gained a first-class degree in history and then taken a masters in Sociology of Sport at Loughborough before landing the Women in Sport internship. “Despite her small stature she was extremely strong,” he said.

Chesters’ friend Lesley Thompson, who was playing alongside her in the game when she suffered the injury, told the inquest: “I didn’t see it, but I believe she was tackled by a lot bigger person. It was just a tackle, nothing malicious or heated. She was lying flat on the floor, holding her right collarbone.”

Recording a verdict of accidental death, the coroner, Ian Smith, said: “She was tackled, she went down. When the injury occurred is not totally clear. It may have been the result of the initial impact or the result of hitting the deck.”

More than £1,800 was raised through a charity tournament at Manchester Metropolitan University in Chesters’ memory. The football club Bradwell Belles, where Chesters worked as a coach, has also planned a tribute match in aid of the Stroke Association.

Speaking after the inquest, the club’s secretary, Robert Pilkington, said: “Sarah was always full of life and put her heart and soul into everything she did. She did her coaching badge at 18 and helped coach the youth sides since. She was a lovely girl to be around. As a player she would listen to everything she was told to do to better herself.

“What she put into playing, she put into coaching. She always worked hard and was a dedicated athlete. She played up front and often on the wing. It was always football for her, until she left college for university.

“She still played football but excelled at rugby at university. We supported her with it. She took up rugby but she always stayed in touch.

“She told us about the accident, which obviously caused her death. It was an awkward landing. But the fact she carried on as normal does not surprise me – she was always a battler and had true fighting spirit. It was saddening. It was just a complete shock to everyone.”



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