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Toyota Cheetahs U21 hooker Thapelo Moshodi, pictured in hospital after breaking his neck, was visited by Toyota Cheetahs’ loosehead prop Schalk Ferreira

ER24 comes to Cheetahs’ rescue

Photo above: Thapelo Moshodi was visited in hospital by Toyota Cheetahs’ loosehead prop Schalk Ferreira, who has overcome two severe neck injuries in the past. Photo: Supplied

A practice game between the Toyota Cheetahs U21 team and the UXI Institute of Excellence U21s resulted in a near-fatal accident for hooker Thapelo Moshodi when he broke his neck after the scrum collapsed on him.

Fortunately for the 20-year-old Toyota Cheetahs U21’s player, ER24’s skilled paramedics and an ambulance were on duty as on-field emergency medical support when the injury occurred on 29 July 2022 at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein.

Speedy assistance from ER24’s paramedics on the field and an operation the next day at Mediclinic Bloemfontein meant that within just a few days of the incident Thapelo was able to walk again.

Doctors determined that Thapelo had a cervical spine (neck) fracture, which in some cases can result in temporary or permanent paralysis or even death.

Speaking to ER24 from his home in Bloemfontein a month after the accident, Thapelo says: “It has been four weeks since my neck and spine injury and the operation at Mediclinic Bloemfontein. I am doing so well. I was transferred to a rehabilitation centre after four days and, with the help of physio, I began walking. I could go back home after just less than a week in rehab. I’ve been busy with rehab and everyone is shocked and amazed at the rate at which I am improving. I can walk like I was able to before the accident and my neck and right shoulder are much, much better.”

Thapelo is very grateful to the medical teams who helped him: “I want to thank ER24 especially. I remember they were the first to arrive at the field to stabilise me, making sure I didn’t hurt myself any further. They also transported me to Mediclinic Bloemfontein where I was successfully operated on the next day. ER24 and Mediclinic, thank you very much! You are highly appreciated.”

The proper treatment

Thapelo’s experience is an apt example of why someone who has injured their neck or spine should not be moved except by a professional medic. Says ER24’s Central Region Manager Sidney Venter: “When stabilising a patient after an incident like this, they need to be immobilised on boards and strapped up. The staff involved did an amazing job stabilising Thapelo and reassuring him that he was in good hands because obviously it is a very frightening experience for the patient.

“Thapelo is a very, very lucky individual and he told me he got a second chance. He broke his neck very badly. If he had been handled incorrectly, he could have died or been paralysed. The fact that he is recovering so well is really a blessing, a miracle,” says Sidney. “Everybody who worked with him, from the paramedics to the hospital staff, did a great job.”

Sidney adds that this incident shows the importance of having proper medical support, even at practice games, especially with contact sports. “The Toyota Cheetahs did the right thing by having ER24 there even for a practice game. Even if teams can’t have paramedics at their games, they should ensure that their staff, especially the coaches, are trained in the basics of sports injuries and CPR. Knowing the right decision to make in various circumstances and when to call an ambulance can make all the difference. If an injured person is complaining of a sore neck, those around him must definitely not try and be heroes and pull him or her up, but get medical help immediately. If schools, universities or clubs offer sport, they need to have the medical support to back it, because something will happen eventually.”

Lifesaving side-line support

ER24 and Mediclinic Bloemfontein have been the official healthcare partners for the Toyota Cheetahs since 2019. ER24 provides the team with on-field emergency medical services.

“We have a fantastic working relationship with the Toyota Cheetahs. In terms of the Free State culture, rugby, even school rugby, is big here and tremendously well supported,” says Sidney.

Communications Manager for the Toyota Cheetahs, Ronel Pienaar, says: “We have always enjoyed brilliant and very professional service from ER24 and Mediclinic Bloemfontein. ER24 is always on standby at our home and international games and keen to assist at training and practice matches. We get the best quality medics and side-line assistance. We are very thankful to ER24 and Mediclinic for helping Thapelo and giving him the best care, which was professional and reliable. Their assistance was definitely life-saving. We wish him a speedy recovery.”

The Toyota Cheetahs’ U21 team falls under the Toyota Cheetah’s development and training academy. It is Thapelo’s second year with the rugby academy, while he is also studying Coaching Science at the Health and Fitness Professionals Academy.

For the young man who hails from the small northern Free State farming town of Edenville, it is a relief to still be able to move and he is taking things one step at a time. “At this stage I am very focussed on my recovery and my studies,” says Thapelo.

  • A story about Thapelo’s injury and recovery will be broadcast on DSTV’s Supersport Rugby show The Cheetah Chase at 17h30 on Wednesday 31 August 2022.