The game of rugby union often comes under scrutiny by parenting watchdogs, many of whom have called the game too dangerous for children to play. Physicality is a prerequisite of the game, nobody can dispute that, but does that mean children should not partake in it, or are we just becoming ever more PC?
With the Rugby World Cup coming to Britain next September the question is even more prevalent. With the wider exposure, thousands of children will want to take up the game as they hope to emulate their heroes. In 2003, England’s World Cup winning year, youth rugby participation spiked by 25% in the two years following. If England are successful at next year’s World Cup – and there is a good chance they will be, given that betfair have them placed as a major contender to get their hands on the Webb Ellis trophy – expect to see an even larger influx of youngsters in the sport. So it’s vitally important that we start giving serious consideration to the safety of the sport.
The game needs amending
There is no game on the planet that is more dangerous for children than rugby. As mentioned, it is a physical game that sees you try to do everything in your power to bring down the opposition. Tackles are made at velocity and are high impact more often than not. For many parents, and rightly so, they don’t want to see their child put through the gruelling 80-minute game that rugby requires. They don’t know, and will never be able to know beforehand what sort of shape their child will be in when they walk off the pitch. The sense of danger is always in the air when a rugby ball is involved.
Allyson M Pollock, a parent of a son injured whilst playing rugby, has made some independent research into the safety risks rugby poses to our children. All of her research was published in her Tackling Rugby book which was featured by The Independent. Some of the numbers Pollock came up with does make for uncomfortable reading for the governing rugby bodies around the world. Her research led to her stating that there is a one-in-six chance that a child playing a season of rugby will be seriously injured.
Pollock also pointed to a study concluded by the A&E Department in Ireland; their findings suggested that 43 per cent of sports related injuries to children in secondary school come as a result of rugby: three times higher than any other sport.
Rugby is dangerous, but the figures of Pollock and Ireland’s A&E Department just show how barbaric the game can be.
The game is fine as it is
Rugby is history. It has been part of Western culture for nearly two centuries – too many arguably – and changing it would be sacrilege. From a logistic standpoint, it isn’t the soundest of arguments but it is an argument nonetheless, rugby is the school of hard knocks, it isn’t a soft game and it never will be. Nobody wishes injury on anyone but it is just part and parcel of the game, as are knee injuries in football.
Children play tag rugby up until secondary school; from there they move into full contact rugby. Now 11-years-old does sound a little young to playing a contact sport, but, when you consider that these children are playing with and against people of their own age it is not as if they are going up against players twice the size of themselves. Also, at the primitive stages of rugby the game is far from intense, players hardly know what to do; meaning tackles are far from high impact. Two years down the line, if your child has opted to continue with rugby they will be exposed to a high intensity game, but they would have chosen to do so. This form of rugby is the form they love, not some watered down, fun-devoid game that has been forced on them.
Rugby is a dangerous game. Driving a car is a dangerous way of getting to work and honestly, danger is everywhere, absolutely everywhere. People that consume themselves with it border on the idiotic, and while those that call for rugby to become safer do have their justifications, they need to stop. Rugby is rugby, it is never going to be the safest game in the world, but it will instil great pride, respect and a work ethos in your child that no other sport can come close to.