Geoff Cook, father of Mustangs player Grant Cook who died after playing in a rugby league match in 2016, outside the Coronial Inquest into his son's death.
Geoff Cook, father of Mustangs player Grant Cook who died after playing in a rugby league match in 2016, outside the Coronial Inquest into his son's death.

Dad’s one wish after footy player’s ‘traumatic’ death

A MURWILLUMBAH Mustangs player who died after playing in a rugby league match in 2016 suffered an "accidental traumatic brain injury" probably sustained during a tackle, a coronial inquest has found.

NSW Deputy Coroner Derek Lee on Friday handed down his findings at the inquest into the death of Grant Cook, who died at Gold Coast University Hospital on September 12, 2016, a day after playing a rugby league match against the Casino Cougars in Murwillumbah.

After being tackled shortly before halftime in the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League Preliminary final, Grant left the field in distress then collapsed on the ground where he started convulsing before going into cardiac arrest, the inquest heard.

 

Facebook image of Grant Cook, who died in a rugby game in Murwillumbah.
Facebook image of Grant Cook, who died in a rugby game in Murwillumbah.

 

It heard people at the game and then paramedics attempted to revive the father of two, before he was transported by road ambulance to hospital where he died early the following morning.

In his findings, Deputy Coroner Lee described the cause of the 28-year-old's death as "hypoxic brain injury".

He said the fatal injury was "as a result of respiratory arrest, after inadequate respiration and failure of airway protection associated with a grand mal seizure, following an accidental traumatic brain injury".

"The accidental traumatic brain injury was most likely caused when Grant was tackled while playing in a rugby league game, with the mechanism of injury involving Grant falling to the ground while unbalanced and his head impacting with the ground," he said.

In the wake of Mr Cook's death, the coroner recommended that NSW Rugby League consider developing education and training for rugby league players, coaches, ground staff and parents about the "types of mechanisms by which head injuries may be occasioned" and urged more education for participants about "second impact syndrome".

He also recommended that NSW Ambulance use Mr Cook's death as a case study to help educate call takers and dispatchers, with a key issue at the inquest being whether a helicopter ambulance should have been dispatched from Lismore hospital to the oval.

Speaking outside the coroner's court in Sydney, Mr Cook's father, Geoff Cook, said he hoped his son's death could be used to improve safety in sport nationwide.

He said he'd like to see laws enacted that would bring in uniform protocols around concussion at all levels of sport in Australia.

 

Funeral service for Grant 'Cookie' Cook at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Murwillumbah. The Murwillumbah Mustangs rugby players forming a line outside the church. Photo: Jerad Williams
Funeral service for Grant 'Cookie' Cook at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Murwillumbah. The Murwillumbah Mustangs rugby players forming a line outside the church. Photo: Jerad Williams

 

"I'm now an advocate for change in sport," he said.

"(We need) one law that applies to all children playing in community sport, and it sets out the protocols of what happens should there be concussion. It's 'hit, stop, rest' and you're not allowed back onto the field to play the game until you've been to a proper medical expert in head injuries who allows you to go back on whether it's netball, whether it's surfing, whether it's rugby league.

"Sporting bodies, whether it be at the NRL level, whether it be at the community sport level, cannot administer their own concussion protocols, it needs to be uniform and we need legislation."


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