Tuesday 12 December 2017

Ladies' rugby player dies from brain injuries one month after fatal tackle

Sarah Chesters
Sarah Chesters

A leading young rugby player died from brain injuries she sustained more than a month after she was injured in a tackle during a game, an inquest has revealed.

Sarah Chesters, 23, was playing for her ladies’ rugby team Longton RUFC on October 19 last year when she was tackled to the ground by an opposition player.

The 5ft 2in full-back complained of pain to her collarbone, but managed to walk off the pitch and declined an offer of an ambulance or hospital treatment.

In the coming weeks she carried on making a daily two-hour commute from her home in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, for her job as a research intern with Women in Sport in London.

However the Masters' degree graduate took a turn for the worse after she started being sick and feeling dizzy on November 13, an inquest heard yesterday.

Miss Chesters was rushed to Royal Stoke University Hospital where tests revealed she had suffered a stroke.

Her conditioned rapidly worsened and she passed away on November 21 after coming off a life support machine.

Consultant neurosurgeon Simon Shaw told North Staffordshire Coroners Court that Sarah’s eventual death was caused by multiple brain infarctions.

However he said the "likelihood" was the initial trigger had been blunt trauma to the side of the neck in the rugby tackle one month previous which, in turn, had caused damage to an artery, with a blood clot then leading to the stroke.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, North Staffordshire 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."

Sarah's dad Michael Chesters, 65, said his daughter had loved rugby ever since she was introduced to it whilst studying at Manchester Metropolitan University.

After gaining a first-class degree in History, she took a Master's at Loughborough University.

Mr Chesters said: "Despite her small stature she was 5ft 2in she was extremely strong."

Sarah's friend Lesley Thompson was playing alongside her in the game where she suffered her injury.

Giving evidence, she said: "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."

Football club Bradwell Belles, where Sarah coached youngsters, is also planning a tribute match in aid of the Stroke Association.

Speaking after the inquest, Bradwell Belles secretary Robert Pilkington said: "Sarah put her heart and soul into everything.

"She 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 a true fighting spirit."

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