International rugby player loses all feeling in his legs after collapsing during match

Carter has been diagnosed with a rare condition that affects six in every one million people
Carter has been diagnosed with a rare condition that affects six in every one million people -Credit:eyJpdiI6InhZMFg4czFoenJaZDlLSlRCUisvUHc9PSIsInZhbHVlIjoiSlhkanJ1cjRiTXkxQ1FGUUxZejJieWZNa1F1UmxmQ0pMeTdxVFpnQ0pxNklGQ1NKS2pWYmpvNG40M3V4Y3cyNCIsIm1hYyI6IjNhYWFjZmQzNWIyNTU3MjZiZDAzOGFkODhmMDFlMGQ0NmUx

An international rugby player has been diagnosed with a rare and serious condition after collapsing during a game.

Errol Carter was making his debut for Turkey's senior rugby union team last month when he "lost all strength, control and sensation" in his legs and collapsed to the ground. He was left temporarily paralysed but the sensation started to come back and with his side having no substitutions left, he played on for the rest of the game in immense pain.

Unaware of the seriousness of his injury, Carter flew back to England but when the pain got worse and spread to his genitals, he was told to go to hospital and was immediately prepared for surgery. It was found he had a prolapsed disc and his vertebrae were "out of place," while he was diagnosed with Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES), a condition affecting roughly six in one million people where nerves at the bottom of the spine get compressed and severely affect a person's physical ability.

SIGN UP: Get the new exclusive Inside Welsh rugby newsletter for full insight into what's really going on around all the big issues. This special offer will get you full access for the entire year for just £10 instead of £40.

READ MORE: Warren Gatland reveals talks with George North to 'keep door open' for Wales return

During the emergency surgery he had pieces of bone removed from his spine, but after being discharged less than two weeks later, his health rapidly declined and he was back under the knife again. After that painful second surgery, he is now having to learn to walk and move again, having suffered permanent nerve and neurological damage and being left with no control over his bladder or bowel.

Carter - who is Turkey's joint record appearance maker in rugby league - has now spent over a month in hospital. While he is determined to "get back to normal" and continue his rugby career, long NHS waiting times for aftercare rehabilitation mean he is now exploring private options, with a fundraising page set up to help pay for it.

Reflecting on the initial injury he suffered on his Turkey debut against Serbia, the 28-year-old, who previously captained England 7s Universities, said: "During the game I was passed the ball, I started to sprint when both legs collapsed underneath me. I lost all strength, control and sensation – I was paralysed temporarily.

"The sensation did come back, but I had immense pain in my lower back/legs as well as the numbing sporadically returning to both legs at different intensities. I played the remainder of the game as we had no substitutions left, unaware of how serious the injury was."

After declining on his return to the UK the following day, Carter phoned 999 and was told to attend hospital immediately, where he was put top of the waiting list to undergo emergency surgery to decompress his spinal cord, relieve the pressure on his nerves and limit the risk of permanent paralysis.

While still suffering with weakness and numbness in his lower body, he was discharged 12 days later. However, he was soon rushed back in for a second emergency surgery after it was found he had a bulging disc as well as a "pool of blood" and clot putting pressure on the spine.

Carter is determined to "get back to normal" and continue his rugby career
Carter is determined to "get back to normal" and continue his rugby career

"The second surgery was the most pain I have felt in my entire life," he wrote. "I was bed bound, unable to move for the first eight days and not leaving the bed for 11 days due to the pain. Post-surgery I was in a much worse position than the first surgery.

"I still had sciatica in both legs, both feet were numb, with limited movement and strength and I had no control of my bladder or bowel. This is still the case at present."

Carter is now dependent on a catheter, while putting weight on his feet causes "immense neurological pain... like daggers". He has been put on a 15-month waiting list for aftercare rehabilitation on the NHS, but with a 24-month window to recover, he is now looking to raise funds for private treatment so he can regain his normal life and continue to pursue his rugby dreams.

I am a very proud and independent person, however as time has passed, the realisation and severity of my injury [is] sinking in," he wrote. "I now realise for me to have the best chance of recovering I need the help of others. This is not just a physical battle, the uncertainty of not knowing what the future holds is a mental struggle."

Listen to the latest episode of the Welsh Rugby podcast

"I had and still have aspirations of playing for Turkey 7s who currently compete on the European circuit," he added. "In 2027, the world series will be hosted in Istanbul - whereby the host nations qualifies and competes automatically - this is a long term goal that I want to reach.

"After Paris 2024, the Rugby 7s Olympic qualification starts with Turkey competing for a space at Los Angeles 2028. I have aspirations to play in the qualifications and have the opportunity to be an Olympian."

At the time of writing, Carter's GoFundMe page had raised £18,450 of its £25,000 target. You can find out more and donate here.