On March 15, 2005, Matt Hampson was involved in what was described as a freak accident whilst training with the England under-21s rugby team, which led to his spinal cord severing and him becoming a C4/5 tetraplegic.
The accident occurred as the team were preparing for an under-21s Six Nations match against Scotland, when he collapsed.
Matt was described as a promising young prop who had featured on the bench for Aviva Premiership side Leicester Tigers and had played for both England under-18s and England under-21s.
In the years after the accident, Matt set up the Matt Hampson Trust, which gained full charitable status in 2011, becoming the Matt Hampson Foundation. The Foundation aims to help people in similar positions to Matt, who have suffered serious injuries whilst playing or training for sport.
Matt himself continues to play a very active role in the Foundation, raising money for himself and others and also often offering advice and have a chat to injured sports players.
The fact that such a remarkable foundation has come from such a terrible situation is a true testament to Matt and his willingness to help others. He is very much a role model to injured professionals, as his accident has not prevented him from playing a very active role in the sporting community.
Typically, the Foundation raises money through events such as dinners, dances and walks. The annual Walk4Matt is an extremely important event where participants trek 115 miles over seven days from Rugby to London to watch the Premiership Grand Final along the Grand Union Canal towpath.
Henry Fraser, a man who was helped by the Matt Hampson Foundation, paid tribute to Matt, saying: “Matt is one of the busiest people I’ve ever met and leads the way for others to follow”.
The Foundation website highlights this activity of Matt and the Foundation in stating that: “The Matt Hampson Foundation does not know the meaning of 9 ‘til 5”.
This is one brilliant example of the many institutions that exist to aid people in sports who have suffered injuries in sporting accidents, and is invaluable to the game of rugby and many other sports.
The rugby community is greatly enhanced by Matt’s work, demonstrating that the game is a friendly one which seeks to look after all of those involved in it.
In Matt Hampson’s biography, written by Paul Kimmage, Matt is highly critical of the attitude of the Rugby Football Union (RFU) and the initial help from the NHS in the immediate aftermath of his accident. The foundation that he set up is therefore a welcome addition to the game of rugby, dealing as it does with an incredibly pertinant issue in the sport.
Whilst the Foundation is an incredible body, it is sad that its existence is necessary. An underlying theme here is that sports can be dangerous and that people’s lives can be changed drastically in a split-second freak accident.
Alongside the Foundation helping victims, sports such as rugby should arguably do more to protect their players and prevent accidents, such as the one that Matt suffered, from occurring.
Rugby has, nonetheless, attempted to make the game more safe in recent years with multiple law changes, particularly regarding head and neck injuries. Dangerous tackles are now dealt with far more severely by referees in order to prevent serious injury, and all head injuries are now monitored very closely.
The next step seems to be that amendments to the scrum need to be made, with many commentators and critics suggesting that it is still too dangerous. This is particularly pertinent as this is the area that Matt Hampson suffered his life-changing injury.
If you wish to donate to the Matt Hampson Foundation, then follow this link:
To contact the foundation, please follow:
http://matthampsonfoundation.org/contact-us/ or call 01664454742.
Image Courtesy of Edy Rug