Recent injuries to professional rugby players have again brought to light concerns regarding the safety of the game, especially in schools.
The announcement by Harlequins RFC that England full-back Mike Brown may not play rugby again this season due to a concussion injury comes only days after the tragic death of Nick Tooth, who suffered a head injury during a rugby game in Australia, echoing the recent death of school boy Ben Robinson after a rugby game in Northern Ireland.
This news itself follows figures released in the England Professional Rugby Injury Surveillance Project Report, which showed an increase of 59% in reported cases of concussion in rugby – although in light of a number of high profile incidents in recent years, the rise is likely to reflect greater awareness rather than increased incidence.
These events have resulted in calls for reconsideration of the Government’s drive to boost participation in rugby in English schools by linking them to local rugby clubs. Professor Allyson Pollock, Professor of Public Health Research and Policy, and author of Tackling Rugby: What every parent should know about injuries, has raised concerns that there are not enough safety checks and measures in place to support such programmes and ensure child safety.
William Broadbent of Penningtons Manches’ personal injury team commented: “Rugby is a fantastic game and participation should be encouraged but it does carry risks and it is vital that players of all ages are as safe as possible when participating.
“The Government’s drive to encourage greater participation is a positive step, and this would be universally accepted by proponents and critics alike. The message of the critics must not be misinterpreted, however – they are not trying to discourage children from playing rugby, but to ensure that they are as safe as possible while doing so.
“We have seen a number of claims in recent weeks relating to sporting injuries such as these and it is acknowledged that the risk of the game cannot be removed altogether without removing the competitive element. The important thing is that all possible measures are taken to prevent avoidable injuries - ensuring players are suitably trained to tackle and scrum safely, that they play against others of equal size and that non-contact matches are organised for younger players. These will help to prevent accidents whilst not impacting on a child’s enjoyment of the game.”