A Pittsburgh teenager has passed away more than a week after being concussed in a match.
On September 30, Eric Pelly, an 18-year-old playing for the Pittsburgh Harlequins, was injured and subsequently admitted to a local hospital. Three days afterward, he was discharged with instructions to refrain from contact sports for three to fourth months, according to accounts by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and WPXI. This past Tuesday, he collapsed and never recovered.
The autopsy has not been completed, according to Harlequins president Paul McGregor, who declined to comment further in deference to the Pelly family.
Following International Rugby Board policy, USA Rugby permits 18-year-olds to compete in senior matches. The Harlequins are regarded as a well-organized club, with an active youth program, their own ground and clubhouse, and having hosted several national 7s championships.
Yet the tragedy may rekindle insurance worries. USA Rugby’s Club and Individual Participation Program, or CIPP, provides coverage that enables rugby teams to guarantee municipalities and other institutions that these “third parties” will not be held liable for use of their playing fields.
But CIPP does not cover injuries suffered by players. That leaves many nervous that athletes may not be able to afford their medical bills, and so will choose not to play rugby.
As one measure to improve safety and mitigate risk, Jack Clark of Cal has previously called for requiring national playoff teams to travel with certified medical personnel who are familiar with the players’ medical history. Whether the position increases the team roster or replaces a player’s slot, the benefits outweigh the costs, Mr. Clark has suggested.
Two years ago, Mr. Pelly, a multisport athlete, had been concussed while playing high school football and given up the game, according to published accounts. Funeral arrangements are pending.