Player safety a major concern for Ugandan volleyball

KAVC setter Eunice Nuwabigaba carried off the court. PHOTO/EMANZI NDYAMUHAKI 

What you need to know:

First, it was KAVC Ladies’ setter Eunice Nuwabigaba who landed headfirst against OBB and felt dizzy for a while. Surrounding her were players, coaches and other officials with no medical knowledge.

In 2013, Ugandan sport and rugby in particular was treated to disturbing news of the passing of Nile player Yusuf Zaidi.

What was supposed to be a good start to the Uganda Cup season turned ugly after the player collapsed and breathed his last at Dam Waters Grounds, Jinja in a tie between Nile and Toyota Buffaloes.

Since then, the Uganda Rugby Union has made having an ambulance and medics before any game kicks off a must to avoid any eventualities. 

That should be the case in any other sport to ensure the safety of players, officials or even fans in case of emergencies.

And that is why teams are expected to have team doctors and first aiders. And why there is a medical commission at Uganda Volleyball Federation.

And yet the last two weekends of the National Volleyball League have had medical emergencies unattended to due to lack of medical personnel.

First, it was KAVC Ladies’ setter Eunice Nuwabigaba who landed headfirst against OBB and felt dizzy for a while. Surrounding her were players, coaches and other officials with no medical knowledge.

She was later carried off the court and straight to hospital, from where she did a head scan that confirmed it was a brain shock. Incidentally, Nuwabigaba is the Assistant General Secretary of the federation. 

And yet, not even her incident could get UVF to realise that something had to be done to ensure player safety.

Over the weekend, it was Nemostars’ centre blocker Fahad Zungu who landed badly and twisted his knee. Again, it was the players, coaches and officials fidgeting to find solutions for which they are not trained.

The commonest kind of help, usually, is in form of deep heat and a sip of water. And hope that things don't escalate. And God has been good.

Zungu was eventually carried off at the start of the third set and to the corner, from where he watched the remainder of the game, in pain.

There was no medic to attend to him and needed support leaving the Old Kampala Arena in the end.

Where are the team medics?

Isaac Otuk, the founder and CEO Fitness Health Nutrition Sports (FHNS) is the chairman of the UVF Medical Commission and admitted to have heard about the two incidences.

“Each team is supposed to have its own medic,” Otuk told Score before confirming that, “but one of our members will be there for the next games.”

Indeed, Otuk and his team were present for the Sunday games at Old Kampala and offered help where needed.

But it has got to be consistent.

What has been established by this paper is that while the medical commission does exist, it is not empowered enough to do its work.

There is no facilitation from the federation to have medics available at games.

UVF president Sadik Nasiwu admits there is a problem but does not believe it should be the federation’s responsibility to handle player first aid at games.

“It should be the standards of any team engaged in playing in the league to have a team doctor,” Nasiwu told Score.

“The expectation is that federation should take it up but it is the team doctor who should know the history of the players and the injuries from the past,” he added.

“Clubs should beef up their medical teams and for us (UVF) we come in when there is need.” 

Not that bad

The federation, according to the president, had gotten assurance from clubs that they would have their own doctors for the games but clearly that is not happening and most clubs cannot afford.

“Our injuries are not severe compared to, let’s say rugby,” Nasiwu opined.

“But we will try to empower clubs train team doctors, hopefully they will comply.”

Indeed, volleyball is a non-contact sport but there are situations and injuries. The most common injuries are ankle injuries and sprains, knee injuries, shoulder injuries and lower back pain.

Last season it was Sport-S’ Johnson Rukundo who landed badly and dislocated his ankle against KAVC. Even with no contact, the injuries are there and can be severe.

Teams like KCB-Nkumba, KCCA and Ndejje have entered into partnerships with FHNS to provide first aid services during their games. The rest of the teams and the federation must find a way around player safety.

“UVF should enter partnerships with insurance companies so that at least we have first aiders during games,” Ndejje University Dean of Students Wilfred Muhumuza, who manages the institution’s volleyball teams, told this paper.

 Referees and other match officials are the only ones facilitated by UVF on matchdays but going by the current rate of injuries, including medics and first aid equipment is something the powers that be must put into consideration. 

National Volleyball League

Playing Saturday (Old Kampala)

M -Nkumba vs. Ndejje -12pm

M -Sky vs. OBB -2pm

M -Sport-S vs. Nemostars -4pm

Sunday fixtures

W -Espoir vs. Sport-S -10am

W -KCB-Nkumba vs. KAVC -12pm

M -KAVC vs. Tigers -2pm

M -UCU vs. KCCA -4pm


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