Health experts demand contact rugby ban in schools

A group of health experts from the US and UK, concerned about the seriousness of rugby injuries in schools, have issued an open letter to Ireland’s health minister calling for contact tackling to be banned.

Story by UTV Ireland Staff, Dublin

The letter from the Sport Collision Injury Collective (SCIC) – made up of university professors and doctors – made the appeal in a letter to government ministers in England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

In the document, addressed to Health Minister Leo Varadkar, Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan, and Minister for Transport and Tourism Paschal Donohoe, the harmful effects of tackling in the youth game is outlined.

“The majority of all injuries occur during contact or collision, such as the tackle and the scrum,” the letters states.

“These injuries which include fractures, ligamentous fears, dislocated shoulders, spinal injuries and head injuries can have short term, life long, and life-ending consequences for children.”

The group of 70 health experts say children take longer to recover from the “high-impact” hits sustained in the sport, which can interfere with a child’s education and future development.

As a result, SCIC say the removal of contact tackling is necessary.

But the governing body of Irish rugby say the “lifelong health and personal benefits” far outweigh the risks.

“There is a risk of injury in all contact sports,” an IRFU spokesperson said in a statement to UTV Ireland.

“And while World Rugby and the IRFU, in partnership with Ulster University and other institutions, are undertaking research in this important area, we would welcome the opportunity to partner with government agencies in the development of evidence based research into the risks and rewards associated with all sports.”

It is not just school level rugby that is under the microscope. Injuries – specifically concussion – have been under review in the professional game for some time.

Speaking about a possible change to concussion laws, former Irish International Stephen Ferris suggested the injury at amateur level could end up being a lot more serious.

“In the professional game it is a lot easier. We have got doctors there within five seconds of a guy doing down. But in the younger game and in the club game, if anybody is in doubt get them out and that is the simple message I would like to get out there,” he said.

Barbara O’Connell, of Acquired Brain Injury Ireland, told UTV Ireland that concussion is the “biggest problem” facing the adult game.

“This is the first generation of professional rugby players so we are not going to see a lot of the symptoms for a long t

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