The position of the Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) and its position on athletes that have sustained injuries during competition remains a grey area. The latest case in sports injuries implicates the Botswana Karate Association (BOKA) which is currently being accused of turning a blind eye to one of their athletes Boitumelo Koone who recently sustained a career threatening leg injury earlier this year.
In an interview with BG Sport this week, Koone, a promising athlete was disillusioned after he got injured during the final senior team selection. Following the painful injury, Koone alleged that BOKA simply dumped him at Marina Referral Hospital where he had to fend for himself until today.
Narrating his sad experience, Koone said he waited for close to seven hours at the hospital emergency room before he could be assisted. He explained the horrendous experience as being laden with excruciating pain before he could be attended to. “I was all alone and I did not understand what was happening, I could not move my leg or even walk,” Koone said.
After the doctors attended tohim Koone said that he was given paracetamol pills and sent home. So after leaving the hospital he struggled to walk and had to be pushed around in a wheelchair.After two days, his thigh was terribly swollen and realizing that his chances of getting better are minimal to zero, he pleaded with his brother to come to intervene in the situation. “It was then that my brother took me to a private doctor where I learnt that I had a ligament tear.” Koone added that the doctor further told him that he had blood clots around the injured area and if left unattended he might suffer dire consequences including death in the worst-case scenario. “I tried to reach out to BOKA, however they gave me a cold shoulder. I have on repeated attempts tried to seek assistance from the president Tshepo Bathai however he seemed to be avoiding me at the time,” he said.
Koone said that at one-point BOKA instructed him to write a letter but the association never responded on the matter. “I have told that young man that BOKA does not financially assist karatekas that do not form part of the national team. It will be too much for the association to handle given the number of karatekas in the country,” Bathai said. The BOKA president added that they have repeatedly explained to Koone why they could not help and they have even responded to the letter he wrote. Nevertheless, Koone said Bathai should produce evidence that indeed they responded to his letter. He presented his phone conversation with several BOKA officials including Bathai when he was trying to get answers from them. However, it seems the communication was one sided as there was no response from the other end.
Koone said what boggled the mind is the fact that BOKA expects athletes to pay participation fees of P150 in every tournament and team selection eve., However it seems they are left to fend for themselves once they sustain serious injuries.
For his part the private doctor who attended to Koone’s injuries, Jin Tae Choi, a physiotherapist at Kalafong said the athlete was lucky to have survived. “He had a tear and it was severe, should he have waited any longer it would have gotten more complicated,” he said. Choi said that he has treated so many local athletes with different types of injuries. Among others he has dealt with football players, boxers, netball and basketball players. The doctor said he has even referred some athletes to South Africa because their cases were more complicated. The doctor who clearly expressed concern towards local athletes said the biggest challenge remains that athletes he treats cannot afford his services. ” Their biggest concern is that they do not have money, sometimes I am unable to assist them because I am running a business and cannot be compassionate all the time.
The Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) needs to assist these children or their careers will be crippled by this injury.” Choi said. Choi said it was very dangerous for an athlete to participate in sport without properly recovering from their injuries. He said should athletes continue participating without healing they are at risk of damaging their bodies permanently. Meanwhile Monthusi Moitoi of Botswana Boxing Association (BoBA) shared with BG Sport that he lost his tooth during a fight with Mmusie Tswiige of Prisons Club late last year. Today he is toothless and BoBA has not addressed the situation yet, “My club said they will assist with an implant but they are now silent. I have been off season since then over fear of hurting the other one,” he said. Retired boxer Zibani Chikanda said he once suffered an eye tear during an interclub tournament.
A doctor at the boxing tournament attended him and he was told to visit the clinic. Chikanda who works for the Botswana Defence Force had to foot all his medical bills until he recovered from the injury. The former national boxing champion lamented the fact that no one bothers to make a follow up on his injury. Chikanda later returned to the boxing ring after three months. Last year, 400m runner Baboloki Thebe was reported to be disappointed that Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) neglected him following an injury he picked during the 2017 World Championships held in London. The athlete is alleged to have sought medical attention across borders without the consent of BAA upon realizing that his injury was more severe than he realised.
When reached, BNSC Director of Sports Development Technical Bobby Gaseitsiwe said all national team players are fully covered by the BNSC insurance unfortunately they do not cover athletes that do not form part of the national team.
Nevertheless Gaseitsiwe said he does not think any association or club can neglect any injured athlete. They are expected to report to the commission in cases where the injury is severe.“No athlete can be neglected, they are taken to government hospitals and are provided with the necessary care. There are also rules that no tournament can be held without professional doctors that is to ensure that incases of emergencies they can assist,” Gaseitsiwe said.