Manly Sea Eagles player Keith Titmuss was suffering from heatstroke when he collapsed at training and later died, a coronial inquest has been told.
The 20-year-old lost consciousness during pre-season training at the team’s headquarters on Sydney’s northern beaches on November 23, 2020.
He was rushed to hospital but he was pronounced dead later that day.
Mr Titmuss was on the verge of making his NRL debut at the time of his death, which left his family and fellow players devastated and desperate for answers.
On Monday, Lidcombe Coroners Court heard a team of medical experts had independently concluded the player had been suffering from heat exhaustion when he suddenly collapsed.
The team had been involved in the first pre-season training session of the year on the morning of November 23 when Mr Titmuss “was observed to be in distress”.
He was thought to be enduring cramps and his teammates helped him stretch for a few minutes.
However, counsel assisting the coroner Adam Casselden said the 20-year-old player’s condition “deteriorated” and he became “confused and disorientated”.
He said Mr Titmuss was unable to respond to the coaching staff or any of the other players and began to suffer a seizure.
The seizure lasted nearly seven minutes and culminated in Mr Titmuss emitting “an involuntary howl”.
When paramedics arrived at the training facility, they observed the 20-year-old had a temperature of more than 41C.
“I didn’t believe it. I’d never seen a temperature like this before,” one of the paramedics said.
Despite his temperature, the inquest was told no one used ice packs or other measures to cool Mr Titmuss. Instead, efforts were focused on his seizure and associated symptoms.
The inquest will hear from several medical experts who will assess the circumstances of Mr Titmuss’ death and the response to his collapse.
In summarising their findings, Mr Casselden said the evidence “leaves no real doubt that Keith suffered exertional heatstroke”.
Deputy State Coroner Derek Lee will also assess whether coaching staff were adequately trained in assessing heat exhaustion and whether NRL policies are appropriate.
The response of a sports doctor called to the site and paramedics will also be examined in an effort to learn from Mr Titmuss’s untimely death.
The inquest will hear from Manly Sea Eagles head of football John Bonasera as well as former high-performance chief Don Singe and assistant coach Michael Monaghan.
Mr Titmuss’s former teammates Josh Schuster, Moses Suli and Sione Fainu are also expected to give evidence.
The inquest is expected to run for a week and a half.
More to come