Cal celebrated a rugby national championship victory on Saturday, bu the mood was much more somber than is typical for a national championship victory. During the title game victory against Arkansas State, sophomore Robert Paylor was injured in a collision that left him paralyzed in his lower body.
Early in the championship match, Paylor collided with an opposing player and needed to be taken off the field on a stretcher. He was transported to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center and underwent surgery
“Robert is currently working on stabilizing his condition so he can start rehabilitation,” a statement from the Paylor family shared by Cal’s athletics department said. “The injury paralyzed his lower body with limited motion in his arms. This will be a long and difficult journey for Robert and his outcome is uncertain. But we know his faith and determination will get him as far as he can go in regaining mobility.”
More specific details regarding the injury have not been shared out of respect for the privacy of the family during this difficult time. Cal’s athletics department also issued a pair of statements regarding the injury to Paylor.
“Our team is devastated by Rob’s injury,” Cal rugby head coach Jack Clark said in a statement released by Cal’s athletics department. “There aren’t words to adequately explain our sorrow for what he and his family are going through.”
“We are here to provide help and support in every way possible,” Cal Director of Athletics Mike Williams said in a separate statement. “Our excitement over another national championship is clearly tempered by Robert’s injury, and we certainly hope for the best outcome him and his family.”
“His challenges will be severe, long in duration and difficult beyond measure,” Clark added. “Our team intends to be there with him every bit of the way.”
Rugby is quite the violent sport and is played with less protective gear than football, although some believe football could be made safer by implementing some of the techniques seen in rugby. Despite the differences in how the sport is played, a physical sport that involves contact is never free from the possibility of a severe injury taking place. Compared to other sports, rugby is considered the second-most dangerous sport behind football according to Health Grove, but rugby has the 8th most injuries per play on average, which comes behind football, basketball, hockey, cheerleading, soccer, softball, and baseball.
As the Paylor family moves forward with Robert’s long road through rehab, a GoFundMe campaign has been organized to help contribute to the costs of the medical expenses. More than $214,000 has already been raised.