THEY were a battered and favourite pair of rugby shorts, yet Simon Howell never thought they would prove to be lifesavers.

The 61-year-old from North Leigh, near Witney, says he owes everything to his beloved KooGa shorts after falling from a stepladder and spiking his leg on the broken metal.

Mr Howell was working on his yacht in Topsham, Devon, on Sunday, August 4, when the leg of the metal ladder broke and he fell 6ft on to it, seriously injuring himself.

The former rugby player suffered a five-inch wide cut in his upper leg.

But surgeons told him that the double seam in his blue KooGa rugby shorts prevented further injury and even saved his life.

The father-of-one who lives with his wife Julie, 59, is a campaigns manager for a Warwickshire charity.

He said: “One of the legs snapped on the aluminium stepladder and when I fell it acted like a bacon slicer.”

When he got to hospital he said surgeons told him the seam on his shorts had stopped the ladder from slicing through his lower bowel and stomach.

Mr Howell, who played rugby for his home town Witney about 40 years ago, added: “I have never been comfortable in anything other than rugby shorts. I was at the boatyard cleaning the boat.

“Because it stands 8ft off the ground, I was using the stepladder to reach it. The leg of the stepladder snapped without warning, causing it to flick me violently into the air and I fell horizontally about 6ft on to the concrete, breaking two ribs and damaging my kidney, and I somehow became entangled with the ladder as I hit the ground.

“I managed to stand up and immediately realised that I was seriously hurt. But as I was alone in the yard, my only thought was to get into my car and drive the short trip back to my wife’s family to get cleaned up before going to hospital.

“I felt a massive laceration in my upper leg some five inches wide and realised I was bleeding profusely.

“I was admitted to A&E at Torbay Hospital in Torquay where they staunched the blood, gave me morphine and after five hours observation to determine the damage to my kidneys, took me to theatre for an operation which needed multiple stitches.”

He added: “I’ve kept the shorts and it’s really clear that they saved my life.”

Mr Howell wrote to manufacturer KooGa following the accident to thank them.

KooGa spokesman Mathew Isherwood said they were sending Mr Howell some replacement shorts.

He added: “Rugby is a rough and tumble sport and the Murrayfield shorts have a double-seam stitch to stop them from ripping.

“We're delighted the product helped ensure Mr Howell was not too badly injured.”