Good safety record for rugby

Ma­jor trau­matic in­juries are rare, says Rugby Canada’s CEO


Rugby Canada’s CEO says ma­jor trau­matic in­juries like one that killed a P.E.I. teenager are rare de­spite the lack of pro­tec­tive gear be­cause play­ers are trained to safely tackle op­po­nents and re­spect each other’s safety.

Allen Vansen said Wed­nes­day that he was in­cred­i­bly sad­dened to hear about the death of Brodie Mc­Carthy, an 18-yearold high schooler who sus­tained a fa­tal brain in­jury dur­ing a rugby tour­na­ment last Fri­day. “We’re in­cred­i­bly sad­dened to re­ceive that news and all our im­me­di­ate thoughts and prayers were on Brodie’s fam­ily, his friends and team­mates, the en­tire com­mu­nity of Mon­tague and his school,” Vansen said. But he said Mc­Carthy’s sud­den death - five years after the death of Ot­tawa teen Rowan Stringer after mul­ti­ple on-field con­cus­sions - should not de­ter other teens from play­ing the sport.

“It’s not a sport that has as much ma­jor phys­i­cal trauma that may be per­ceived out of a very un­for­tu­nate in­ci­dent like this,” he said.

Vansen said rugby is like any other con­tact sport, but un­like foot­ball and hockey, play­ers are trained to be more mind­ful of each other’s safety.

“Rugby is a sport that is founded on very strong val­ues of re­spect for each other and re­spect for com­peti­tors,” Vansen said. “You are taught to tackle in a smart way and in a way that is meant to pro­tect your­self and the op­po­nent you are tack­ling.” Al­though play­ers do not wear hel­mets or pro­tec­tive gear, they are trained to tackle be­low the shoul­ders and to im­me­di­ately rec­og­nize when they or oth­ers are hurt.

“Our mantra is al­ways ‘if in doubt, sit them out.’ ” Vansen said Rugby Canada fol­lows strict pro­to­cols when it comes to as­sess­ing the risks and rec­og­niz­ing con­cus­sions and other brain in­juries on the field. Rugby Canada’s PlayS­mart pro­gram was launched in 2016 to ed­u­cate mem­bers and pro­vin­cial unions on the risk of head in­juries on the field and how to prop­erly man­age and re­port them. “Any player with con­cus­sion or sus­pected con­cus­sion should be im­me­di­ately and per­ma­nently re­moved from train­ing or play,” the Rugby Canada web­site says.

Ac­cord­ing to Sta­tis­tics Canada, rugby was the third most com­mon sport in which 15- to 19-year-old males sus­tained con­cus­sions and other brain in­juries be­tween 2012 and 2014, be­hind ice hockey and foot­ball.

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