AN RAF airman died from a head injury after being tackled multiple times in a rugby match and refusing to come off.
An inquest into Scott Stevenson's death heard he wanted to keep playing and not let his team down before he collapsed from serious head injuries.
The 25-year-old died after falling unconscious in the second half of the match against the Army last year.
The fullback was tackled four times – three involving significant blows to the left side of his head.
He was airlifted from the pitch in Aldershot, Hants, to St George’s Hospital, London, but died three days later with his parents at his bedside.
Footage of the match appeared to show Mr Stevenson being hit on the left side of his head by a player's knee.
He looked "dazed and confused" when standing up, and minutes later he fell unconscious.
Earlier in the match, Mr Stevenson, who was based at RAF Marham, Norfolk, suffered at least three tackles to his head, and could be seen holding where he was hit, but he continued playing.
His mother Donna Stevenson, who had been watching the match streamed online, told the inquest at Winchester Coroners' Court: "I've lost my son and my best friend. He was always there for me.
"When I watched that game online and I saw him go down, I knew that my world was changed forever.
'TOUGH TO ACCEPT'
"I knew that he was never going to come back, especially when I saw him in the hospital. I just knew then that I had lost him."
His father, Stephen Stevenson, told the inquest he had coached Scott from the age of five, adding: "There was a great affinity between us. I taught him how to tackle and he was one of the best.
"The saddest part of this is that I played the game longer than he was alive. I’ve had bangs to the head and been unconscious and I’m still here. It’s tough to accept that."
He added: "For me, the legacy moving forward is that we need to educate players that when it comes to a head injury.
"At the point of feeling numbness in one of your limbs, that means it's pretty serious and you owe it to yourself to get off the field and get yourself sorted out."
Christopher Wilkinson, senior area coroner for Hampshire, New Forest, Portsmouth and Southampton, said: "Scott's strength of character, with his absolute dedication to the game and his team, may have prevented him from raising a flag to say he wasn't feeling good."
Mr Wilkinson recorded a verdict of accidental death due to a "significant brain injury" incurred in the match on September 13 last year.
He added: "I do believe he won't have told anybody that he wasn't feeling well because of his determination to get the match finished on a win."
The airman's brother, Shaun Stevenson, said: "It didn’t really matter if you had known Scott for 25 years or 25 minutes, you would immediately find a place for him in your heart.
"We know the huge number of lives he touched. At his funeral, people had to wait outside the church to enter because it was so full."
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