"This will be a long and difficult journey for Robert and his outcome is uncertain," the Paylor family said in a statment
Credit: GoFundMe

A 20-year-old University of California, Berkeley, rugby player was left paralyzed from the chest down after being injured during the first few minutes of a national championship game on Saturday.

Sophomore Robert Paylor collided with an opposing player and needed to be taken off the field on a stretcher, according to The Mercury News. He was then transported to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center and underwent surgery.

“The Paylor family would like to extend our sincere gratitude and thanks to the Cal Rugby family, friends and community for all your prayers and support,” the family said in a statement. “We can’t find the words that express what that has meant to all of us in this very sad time in our lives. Robert is currently working on stabilizing his condition so he can start rehabilitation. The injury paralyzed his lower body with limited motion in his arms.”

They added: “This will be a long and difficult journey for Robert and his outcome is uncertain. But we know his faith and determination will get him as far as he can go in regaining mobility. We are overwhelmed with the love and support we’ve received from people all over the country and ask that you continue to keep Robert in your prayers.”

Robert Paylor at the hospital
| Credit: GoFundMe

A family friend who is also the mother of one of Paylor’s teammates said the injury was an awful accident.

“They’re taught how to tackle and do the right things, it was just a very unfortunate circumstance,” Jennifer Douglas told The Mercury News.

She called Paylor — an El Dorado Hill, California native — a strong young man who “makes everyone laugh” and is “truly one of a kind.”

“He’s a young man of incredible faith,” she said. “He is going to fight. There is nothing that will get in his way. He believes he will beat this thing. He is so positive and that’s what he’s going to need for this.”

To date, more than $245,000 has been donated to a GoFundMe page that was created to help with the steep medical costs.

According to the newspaper, his coach and teammates — who are now in the middle of finals week — have visited him in the hospital. Now, the family is asking for privacy while he gets stabilized so he can start rehabilitation at the end of the week.

Paylor’s head coach, Jack Clark, said that the entire team is devastated by his injury. A prayer service is being planned for Paylor Thursday evening on the UC Berkeley campus.

“There aren’t words to adequately explain our sorrow for what he and his family are going through. Rob is an extraordinary teammate, friend and student-athlete,” Clark said in a statement. “As a University-recognized Scholar Athlete, he represents everything that is right and true about collegiate athletics. His challenges will be severe, long in duration and difficult beyond measure. Our team intends to be there with him every bit of the way.”