A RUGBY player who died suddenly from an underlying heart condition would have been told to stop playing the sport had he been screened, an inquest heard.
Former Rotherham Titans player Ian Williams (27) suffered a cardiac arrest at a Doncaster Knights training session and died despite the efforts of club members and paramedics to revive him, Doncaster Coroner’s Court was told.
The prop forward, who lived in New Edlington, had made eight appearances for Rotherham Titans in the 2016-17 campaign.
He had been diagnosed with a systolic heart murmur in November 2004, when he was 14, during a routine medical check but was never screened during his time at the Titans or the Knights despite disclosing his heart condition to both clubs.
The hearing in Doncaster was told he had never showed any symptoms of the heart murmur until he complained of suffering neck and chest pain at home five days before his death on February 20, 2018.
Ian Williams' mother, Phillippa (left) and sister Helen after the inquest on Monday.
Mr Williams’ family have set up The Ian Williams Foundation in his memory to push for all rugby clubs to offer cardiac screening to their players — something which was only available to English international and Premiership players at the time of his death.
Since then, thanks to the foundation’s work with the Rugby Football Union, it has been recommended that cardiac screening be extended to the English Championship.
Consultant cardiologist Prof Kevin Channer told the inquest on Monday (17) that Mr Williams’ heart condition would have been picked up on if he had been screened some time earlier, which may have led to potentially life-saving surgery and most likely seen him put on beta blockers and told to avoid exercise.
Mr Williams’ girlfriend, Abigail Lynch, had previously told the inquest that she had rung rung 111 on February 15, 2018, after he complained of being in pain and he had been taken to by ambulance to Doncaster Royal Infirmary at 11pm.
Ms Lynch said he had been seen by a doctor who had asked him general questions about his condition but had been discharged at 6am and advised to take ibuprofen.
Five days later, he was training with the Knights when he collapsed and efforts to revive him proved in vain, the inquest heard.
The cause of death was cardiac arrest caused by internal bleeding stemming from a tear in the aorta, which was connected to his underlying condition.
Louise Slater, the Assistant Doncaster Coroner, recorded a narrative conclusion in which she found that Mr Williams had not been given any advice about whether to continue playing rugby professionally during his appointment at the hospital.
She found that the rugby clubs had complied with Rugby Football Union guidelines in regard to Mr Williams’ care but criticised three doctors who saw him at the hospital’s emergency department for keeping a poor record of their contact with him after he attended A&E, and said she would be writing to the health secretary with some recommendations.
Mr Williams’ family believe he should have been referred to a cardiologist after attending A&E.
Speaking after the inquest, his sister, Helen Williams, said it was a relief that Ms Slater, in raising the issues over record-keeping, had highlighted “systemic failures that needed to be addressed and that means we could save someone else’s life”.