Academics call to scrap school rugby tackling and scrums

By Holly Hume

Academics are calling for tackling and scrums to be banned in school rugby after publishing staggering concussion statistics.

Dr Allyson Pollock and Graham Kirkwood’s report, ‘Tackle and scrum should be banned in school rugby,’ has focused attention on the contact sport being taught by compulsion in the UK.

They explained a New Zealand study which found that playing one game of rugby every three weeks was 460 – 530 times more dangerous than a half an hour cycling trip.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Schools have the flexibility to offer a diverse PE curriculum which suits the needs of their students.

“We expect schools to be aware of all of the risks associated with sporting activities and to provide a safe environment for pupils.”

Ben Robinson, 14, from Ireland, died from ‘second impact syndrome’ two days after a match in 2011.

Ben’s father, Peter, has since campaigned for safer laws to govern rugby and recently criticised Piers Morgan for “trivialising” the issue when he interviewed Dr Pollock on Good Morning Britain.

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Piers said banning tackling would “kill the sport” and compared it to banning punching in boxing or tackling in football.

Dr Pollock and Mr Kirkwood wrote: “Under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Article 19) governments have a duty to protect children from risks of injury and to ensure the safety of children, which is why we are calling on CMOs to act now.”

Many rugby pundits disagree with the academics. Former Leicester Tigers player Austin Healey wrote in the Telegraph: “A lot of the injuries we are seeing, particularly concussions, are the result of poor tackle technique and poor decision making.”

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Mr Healey added: “Technique also plays a large part in this which is why the recent calls for no tackling in schools is so dangerous.

“All you would be doing is shifting the risk to kids when they get to 16-17. The injury levels would go up through the roof.”

The Department for Education spokesperson added: “There is expert advice available for schools on how to manage activities safely and reduce the risk of injuries and accidents.

“On top of this, staff should be given the information and training they need to manage risks effectively.”

 

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