The family have launched legal action against the SRU and World Rugby

Siobhan Cattigan tragedy: Questions must be answered

Women’s sport has reached new heights and plumbed new depths. On the same weekend that we had heartwarming and historic scenes at Wembley, there was the heartbreaking and harrowing tale of Siobhan Cattigan.

Back-rower Cattigan won 19 caps for Scotland before she died last November at the age of just 26. In an interview with The Sunday Times, Neil and Morven Cattigan describe how their daughter’s mental health deteriorated after she suffered brain injuries while training/playing and ultimately led to her death.

In the article, the family recount how Cattigan suffered a head injury during Scotland training in early 2020 and another against Wales in April 2021. They believe she wasn’t given proper care.

“After that Wales game, I got really worried about her,” Morven said. “I believe that things happen gradually, over a period of time, and just ended when it did because her brain was broken and nobody helped her. She was very detached, struggling with remembering things and indecisive. We were losing her.

“As time went by, I likened it to dementia because I couldn’t think of anything that would change a personality so massively, something that completely alters you as a person.”

The Cattigans claim requests for specialist medical support from the SRU were turned down, with Neil saying in the article: “They fixed her broken bones but turned their backs on Siobhan’s broken brain.”

The family were also critical of the SRU’s actions following Cattigan’s death, claiming players were told not to attend the funeral or to contact the family.

An SRU statement said the article “made for challenging reading” and added: “If any of Scottish Rugby’s actions following Siobhan’s passing have made that more difficult, then we do, of course, apologise sincerely.”

The statement also said: “We fully acknowledge the seriousness of what the family have shared. However, there are details and assertions about how our people are said to have acted that we do not recognise, or accept.”

Brain injuries in rugby are already a huge talking point in the game, with World Rugby, the RFU and WRU facing a lawsuit brought by a number of former players who have been diagnosed with early onset dementia.

The players claim the sport’s governing bodies were  negligent in failing to take reasonable action in order to protect players from permanent injury caused by repetitive concussive and sub-concussive blows.

The Cattigan family have now also launched a legal case against the SRU and World Rugby, with their lawyer – Robert Holland of Balfour+Manson LLP – telling the BBC: “The central issue is whether this tragedy was avoidable if the head injury protocols brought in to protect players had been followed.

“Claims have been served on both World Rugby and the Scottish Rugby Union, and we await a response.

“It is hoped matters can be resolved so Siobhan’s family can finally get some closure and lessons can be learnt by rugby union’s governing bodies.”

There are still many questions to be answered and issues to be addressed in this tragic case. For now, our thoughts are with Siobhan Cattigan’s family.

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