Call to ban scrums and tack­ling in school rugby

Cynon Valley - - YOUR NEWS - ELLA PICKOVER ella.pickover@waleson­line.co.uk

SCHOOLS should ban “harm­ful con­tact” from rugby games, ex­perts have said.

In a new opin­ion piece pub­lished in a lead­ing med­i­cal jour­nal, aca­demics said tack­les and scrums should be pro­hib­ited on school play­ing fields.

Allyson Pol­lock and Gra­ham Kirk­wood from the In­sti­tute of Health at New­cas­tle Uni­ver­sity ar­gue that most in­juries in youth rugby oc­cur due to the col­li­sion el­e­ments of the game.

Writ­ing in the Bri­tish Med­i­cal Jour­nal (BMJ), they said that min­is­ters should “put the in­ter­ests of the child be­fore those of cor­po­rate pro­fes­sional rugby unions”.

Re­mov­ing col­li­sion from school rugby is likely to “re­duce and mit­i­gate the risk of in­jury” in pupils, they said.

They ar­gue that a his­tory of con­cus­sion is as­so­ci­ated with the “low­er­ing of a per­son’s life chances” across a num­ber of mea­sures, in­clud­ing low ed­u­ca­tional achieve­ment and pre­ma­ture death. A head in­jury is linked to an in­creased risk of de­men­tia, they added.

Cit­ing pre­vi­ous re­ser­ach into sports in­juries in young­sters, the pair ar­gue that rugby, along with ice hockey and Amer­i­can foot­ball, have the high­est con­cus­sion rates.

They said rule changes in col­li­sion sports can “make a dif­fer­ence”, high­light­ing the Cana­dian ban on “body check­ing” - where a player de­lib­er­ately makes con­tact with an op­pos­ing player - in ice hockey for un­der 13-year-olds.

Mean­while, the ev­i­dence for other strate­gies to re­duce con­cus­sion risk in con­tact sport - such as mouth­guards - is “weak”, the ar­ti­cle adds.

And in the UK “teacher train­ing in the skills of rugby are lack­ing, as is con­cus­sion aware­ness train­ing,” the pair wrote.

The re­searchers called on UK chief med­i­cal of­fi­cers to ad­vise the UK Gov­ern­ment to re­move “harm­ful con­tact” from the game.

In 2016, the na­tion’s most se­nior medics re­jected a call for a ban on tack­ling in youth rugby.

But Pro­fes­sor Pol­lock, who has been re­search­ing in­juries and rugby in­juries for more than 10 years, and se­nior re­search as­so­ciate Mr Kirk­wood said that un­der UN con­ven­tions, gov­ern­ments have a “duty to pro­tect chil­dren from risks of in­jury”.

“We call on the chief med­i­cal of­fi­cers to act on the ev­i­dence and ad­vise the UK gov­ern­ment to put the in­ter­ests of the child be­fore those of cor­po­rate pro­fes­sional rugby unions and re­move harm­ful con­tact from the school game,” they wrote. “Most in­jures in youth rugby are be­cause of the col­li­sion el­e­ments of the game, mainly the tackle.

“In 2016, sci­en­tists and doc­tors from the Sport Col­li­sion In­jury Col­lec­tive called for the tackle and other harm­ful con­tact to be re­moved from school rugby. The data in sup­port of the call is com­pelling.”

Pro­fes­sor Tara SpiresJones, UK De­men­tia Re­search In­sti­tute pro­gramme lead and deputy di­rec­tor of the Cen­tre for Dis­cov­ery Brain Sciences at the Uni­ver­sity of Ed­in­burgh, said: “Very strong ev­i­dence sup­ports a greater risk of de­men­tia in peo­ple who have head in­juries.

“How­ever, the data on specif­i­cally whether play­ing rugby or other con­tact sports in school in­creases risk of de­men­tia is not as ro­bust yet due to a lack of large prospec­tive stud­ies. It is also clear that there are many health risks of lead­ing a seden­tary life­style.”

Calls have been made for schools to ban ‘harm­ful con­tact’ dur­ing rugby games

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