Life & Style Weekend - - MAGAZINE | OUR SAY -


Should kids be banned from play­ing con­tact sport?

There’s a call to not al­low chil­dren un­der 18 to play any con­tact sports be­cause of the re­sults of a study show­ing that NRL play­ers have some sort of brain in­jury.

That’s a toughy be­cause as a dad of three you want to do ev­ery­thing in your power to pro­tect your kids.

On the other hand you don’t want to cot­ton­wool them so much that they don’t get to ex­pe­ri­ence all that life has to of­fer. I re­mem­ber play­ing rugby league at school and I would al­ways get hurt, and could never fig­ure out why there were some kids the same size as me that would walk away from the game with­out in­juries.

Later in life, I fig­ured out that the kids who avoided in­juries were also iron­i­cally the ones that trained more.

These kids had the wis­dom to pre­pare their bod­ies for the phys­i­cal­ity re­quired to play rugby league.

This is the rea­son why I worry about us mol­ly­cod­dling our kids so much that they don’t get the op­por­tu­nity to pre­pare their bod­ies for a sport they may like to take up when they’re 18. I think there is a fine line be­tween be­ing over pro­tec­tive and be­ing a re­spon­si­ble par­ent. Hon­estly, the find­ings of that study which shows sig­nif­i­cant amounts of brain dam­age that come from con­tact sport are cer­tainly con­cern­ing.

Are the find­ings enough to stop my kids from pur­su­ing a sport­ing ca­reer in rugby league … prob­a­bly not.

You do you.


A re­cent study has re­vealed that 99 per cent of foot­ballers have some de­gree of brain dam­age and re­newed calls for bans on con­tact sports. One of the last of the glad­i­a­to­rial ac­tiv­i­ties in so­ci­ety, “footy” has en­joyed a resur­gence in re­cent years with women pick­ing up the ball and run­ning hard. It’s great to see.

It’s time we stopped wrap­ping ev­ery­one up in cot­ton wool and mak­ing de­ci­sions for oth­ers. If I want to head­butt a star picket, that’s my choice, fool­ish maybe, but my choice. If I want to run head first into a pack to try and kick a goal or score a try, again, my choice. I don’t need a well-in­ten­tioned lab coat inch­ing closer to their PHD telling me how to suck eggs. I don’t doubt there are in­her­ent dan­gers as­so­ci­ated with con­tact sport, but I would ar­gue all sports and in­deed out­door ac­tiv­i­ties that don’t re­quire wool and be­ing wrapped in it, have their dan­gers. I’d like to see the stats link­ing brain dam­age to bad­minton too, as a fast mov­ing shut­tle­cock can also be dev­as­tat­ing. My point is stud­ies can be eas­ily ma­nip­u­lated to suit the pur­poses of the peo­ple writ­ing said study or re­port.

The many ben­e­fits of play­ing sport, team, con­tact or oth­er­wise need to be in­cluded in the con­ver­sa­tion when this is tabled. I reckon the ben­e­fits out­weigh the neg­a­tives. We are in the midst of an obe­sity epi­demic, strug­gling to get kids off their screens and deal­ing with an in­creas­ing youth men­tal health cri­sis and now we are look­ing to ban one of the ac­tiv­i­ties that com­bat all of these things?

In the end, make the de­ci­sion that works best for you and your fam­ily, but please don’t take away my right to make that choice.


There’s an alarm­ing study re­cently re­leased around con­tact sports and to be hon­est, it’s a lit­tle fright­en­ing.

Dr Ben­net Omalu has been the pi­o­neer re­searcher in brain dam­age found in NFL play­ers in Amer­ica. The tech­ni­cal term for this is called chronic trau­matic en­cephalopa­thy (CTE). It’s a de­gen­er­a­tive brain dis­ease that pops up as a re­sult of re­peated trauma to the head. In fact, they’ve told us a big change is com­ing and it could wipe out con­tact sports al­to­gether. We all know that it’s a risk play­ing con­tact sport, but there are calls now for sports like AFL, rugby league and union to be “non­con­tact”, un­til they’re at least 18 years old. We spoke about this on air and I read the ar­ti­cle, then I read it again and was re­ally con­fused about how I felt. I’m a mas­sive ad­vo­cate for ju­nior sport and any­thing to keep the kids away from the screens, the bet­ter. Grow­ing up heav­ily in­volved in sport, I know how much it gave me. From dis­ci­pline, to goal set­ting and keep­ing ac­tive, there are so many pos­i­tives that we can all take from learn­ing a sport as a kid. The ar­gu­ment here though, is kids in con­tact sport and while they’re say­ing that con­tact sport could van­ish in the next two gen­er­a­tions, we can’t con­tinue to wrap our kids up in cot­ton wool. In­stead it’s more about ed­u­cat­ing par­ents and kids on the game and how to per­form those skills re­quired in a game with­out get­ting too in­jured. There’s al­ways go­ing to be in­juries in any kind of sport, (that’s the risk you take) it just needs to be mea­sured in a con­trolled en­vi­ron­ment which may even mean ad­just­ing some of the rules of the game, but cer­tainly not tak­ing away the game en­tirely.


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