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Partner and Head of Family Law, Rugby
There is no doubt most parents want to encourage children to play sports. It’s good for a number of reasons but how safe are sports like Rugby?
In an open letter dated 1st March 2016, signed by more than 70 doctors and health experts, a warning was given of the high risk of serious injury among under-18s playing rugby and calling for a ban on tackling in school rugby games. They urged schools to move to touch and non-contact versions of the game.
The letter addressed to ministers, chief medical officers and children’s commissioners – describes rugby as a “high-impact collision sport”.
It goes on to state that amongst other injuries head injury and concussion is a common injury in rugby. A link has been found between repeat concussions and cognitive impairment and an association with depression, memory loss and diminished verbal abilities as well as long term problems.
Further, it states that children take longer to recover to normal levels on measures of memory, reaction, speed and post concussive symptoms than an adult.
So, what was the response? The Guardian newspaper on 2nd March 2016 reported that a Department for Education spokeswoman said schools were expected to be aware of the risks associated with sporting activities and to provide a safe environment for pupils.
“We have given schools the flexibility to organise and deliver a diverse and challenging PE curriculum which best suits the needs of their students.”
The Rugby Football Union said it took player safety “extremely seriously” and that recent changes meant young players underwent a “gradual and managed” introduction to the contact version of the game.
A spokesman said the Union had also carried out a three-year injury prevention and surveillance study on schoolboy injuries, as well as implementing a guidance programme known as RugbySafe. He added: “We believe that high quality coaching, officiating, medical support and appropriate player behaviour in line with the core values, all contribute to reducing the risk of injury occurring.”
This suggests that parents may want to consider the qualifications of the coaching, officiates and the guidelines of the sport their child wishes to participate in.