Young footballer’s death remains a mystery

Ryan Gormally

Ryan Gormally

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THE sudden death of a young Wigan footballer during a match may forever remain a mystery.

An inquest heard 23-year-old Ryan Gormally collapsed during a five-a-side game at the town’s Powerleague Soccerdome at Robin Park.

And despite first aid treatment at the scene and paramedics arriving within minutes, he could not be saved.

His family raised concerns that a fractured skull Ryan had suffered in a fall a week earlier had gone undiagnosed at Wigan Infirmary, and suggested that this may have somehow led to his death.

Mum Rochelle said: “The fact is he had a fractured skull and had that been diagnosed properly, he would have been told to avoid contact sports and would not have gone to play football.”

But medical evidence presented at the Bolton hearing said the head injury appeared to be unrelated to the tragedy and that he died when his heart stopped without warning.

Pathologist Dr David Barker said: “I was unable to find a conclusive cause of death, and therefore I must put that its cause was unascertained. I have seen cases in young men where sudden death occurs and, unfortunately, medical science has not brought us any proof as to why this happens.

“I can find no possibility whereby a skull fracture such as this could lead to the cause of death seven days later.”

The inquest was told that on the night of Ryan’s death – September 22 last year – there was no registered first aider at the Soccerdome, although there is no obligation for there to be one.

There was also a defibrilator at the venue, but again no trained personnel were on hand to operate it.

However, since then, guidelines from the Resuscitation Council have been changed to state that untrained people should use defibrilators in emergencies because the benefits outweigh the risks.

Ryan incurred the head injury on September 14 after he fell on his way home from a night out. The following day he attended accident and emergency at Wigan Infirmary, where doctors treated him for a 3cm cut above his left eye.

However, the doctor who treated him, Paul Massen, told the hearing that despite Ryan’s injuries he did not meet the clinical guidelines to receive a CT scan. X-rays are not given for head injuries as a matter of policy these days.

The day before he died Ryan, of Wordsworth Avenue, Whitley, attended Boston House Clinic in Springfield to have stitches removed, where he told general nurse Jackie Holland that he felt fine.

When he collapsed in the last minute of a 40-minute league match for Tudor House, the inquest was told that several onlookers attempted to revive him.

And referee John Leech said: “I was no more than a yard away from Ryan. He kicked the ball up in the air, turned and looked at me. I saw his eyes roll back into his head and he collapsed to the floor.”

After paramedics had worked on him at the scene and in the ambulance, further attempts were made to revive him at the infirmary, but to no avail.

A&E consultant Dr Derek Harborne was in charge of the team which tried to revive Ryan at Wigan Infirmary. He said: “In research I have seen relating to the very rare occasions, when links between head injuries and heart failure have been made, there is usually a reaction only within 24 hours.

“But this was not the case with Ryan.”

Recording an open verdict, Deputy Coroner Alan Walsh said: “In spite of all the evidence I have heard, the cause of death remains unascertained and therefore the only conclusion I can reach is an open verdict.

“It is absolutely tragic that a 23-year-old man should die in such circumstances and to Ryan’s family I am deeply sorry.”