Doctors have penned an open letter calling on schools to ban tackling.
In an open letter to ministers, more than 70 doctors have called for tackling to be banned in schools rugby, arguing that children run the risk of lifelong injuries from this ‘high-impact collision sport’.
Doctors are particularly worried over the number of concussion suffered in the tackle, and as a result, demand that move to introduce touch rugby.
Their concerns have been raised just as the RFU are in the midst of introducing rugby to one million school kids in England’s state schools over the course of the next seven years. Since 2012, the sport has been successfully introduced into 400 schools, with 350 more targeted by the RFU before 2019.
As a result, one of the signatories, Prof Allyson Pollock, from Queen Mary University of London, told the BBC,
If you’re thinking of a million children playing every year with this risk of injury you’re looking at 300,000 extra injuries a year, including up to 100,000 concussions.
This conclusion was reached after evidence collected over a 12 year period showed, ‘rugby players up to the age of 18 or 19 had a 28% chance of getting injured over a season of 15’.
In addition, Pollock stated that, ‘90% of injuries resulted in more than seven days lost from school’. Two thirds of these injuries occur during the tackle, where kids are exposed to,
fractures, ligament tears, dislocated shoulders, spinal injuries and head injuries can have short-term, lifelong and life-ending consequences for children.
The doctors also highlighted the link between ‘repeat concussions and cognitive impairment and an association with depression, memory loss and diminished verbal abilities’.
The RFU have reacted quickly to the publication of the letter, stressing that rugby is ‘is a fantastic sport for children with many physical and social benefits, which can include an increase in confidence, self-esteem and self-discipline, as well as getting enjoyable physical exercise while working as part of a team’.
While many will agree with the above sentiment, the RFU and the other national and international organisations must ensure that players at all levels are thought the proper tackling, scrummaging and rucking techniques before they take the field.
Over the last four seasons, I have been involved in games where two players suffered serious neck injuries as a result of placing their heads on the wrong side of the tackle.
I have also seen inexperienced props get absolutely demolished, leading to dangerous collapses as the stronger pack brutally expose poor technique.
Alan Drumm, Pundit Arena