Eliminating contact within school rugby?
Believed to have been officially invented in 1823 by William Web Ellis, rugby has been around for about 200 years and is loved by many enthusiasts for the brilliant style of play and for the aggression and contact within the sport by all age groups but as more research goes into the sport, there has been increasing evidence for reducing or eliminating contact within the game at certain age groups. But banning contact in school rugby would be removing a huge aspect of the game that many people love it for.
After a recent study conducted by Professor Allyson Pollock, there is new evidence present suggesting that reducing contact within school rugby would reduce head and neck injuries and concussions. She has made it clear to the UK CMO's (Chief medical officers) to remove contact within the school game, but they have rejected the call to ban contact and say her conclusions are not been supported by the data.
There have been a few studies assessing the risk of injury within collision sports, being sports where "athletes purposefully hit or collide with each other and inanimate objects with great force", which include sports such as rugby, ice hockey and american football. Professor Pollock herself has a son who acquired three serious injuries before the age of 16 playing rugby and since has spent a decades worth of research into the issue of contact at a young age. She has since cited research from Ireland which revealed that in children of secondary school age the rate of injury within rugby was three times higher than any other sport and in the course of a season children have a 20% chance of obtaining a concussion or a bone fracture within the sport.
Furthermore a different New Zealand study used instrumented ear patches, which recorded the magnitude, frequency and location of impact detected by a wireless head impact sensor, which in this study was worn by 14 junior rugby players. This study found that under nine year old rugby union players were experiencing the same magnitude of impact as high school american football despite them being younger, lighter and slower.
The history on concussion is associated with lowering a persons life chances across a range of social and educational measures including premature mortality, low educational achievement and an increase in violent behaviour and violent injuring in adolescents following the year of concussion. A head injury is also related to the risk of dementia with a relative risk of 1.63 ( relative risk being the risk of dementia with a head injury over the risk of dementia without a head injury and Alzheimer's disease being 1.53. Despite the UK's rejection of cutting out rugby other countries such as Canada have imposed some rules on body checking with sports such as ice hockey within the under 13 age category and after a systematic review found a 67% reduction of concussion risk.
World Rugby still rejects the idea to ban contact, as a spokesman for world rugby says that it takes the safety of players very seriously at all levels and that with the correct training, coaching and supervision, rugby builds confidence and develops healthy active lifestyles for many young children. Furthermore Dr Tara Spires Jones has also said that data on whether rugby and other contact sports increases the risk of dementia are not strong yet due to a lack of prospective studies. Dr Alan Carson also added the fact that "The health crisis facing Britain's children is not concussion but is actually obesity and lack of exercise.
The idea of banning tackling at an early age could also be seen as more dangerous, as allowing youngsters to tackle allows them to perfect the technique early on, so that when they reach older stages they ensure to perform the action correctly and as safely as possible which will then reduce the risk of injury. World rugby also responded to the multiple arguments by releasing a survey which showed that 92% of parents of children aged between 7-18 would rather their children played the sport as the benefits outweigh the risks, and also believe that the decision is ultimately left to the children to decide whether they want to take part or not.