Expert urges tackling ban in schools rugby

Allyson Pollock says control should pass from World Rugby to government

Prof Allyson Pollock: ‘Parents don’t know that the laws of the game are decided by World Rugby, and it is only interested in the professional game.’ Photograph:  Iain White/Fennell Photography

Prof Allyson Pollock: ‘Parents don’t know that the laws of the game are decided by World Rugby, and it is only interested in the professional game.’ Photograph: Iain White/Fennell Photography

 

public health expert.

Governance of the schools game should pass from World Rugby to the education and health ministries of governments, with an input from children, according to Allyson Pollock, a professor of public health research and policy at Queen Mary University, London.

Speaking in Sligo at the annual conference of the Irish Medical Organisation, Prof Pollock called for a ban on tackling in schools rugby and greater injury monitoring.

“We know that more than 80 to 90 per cent of injuries happen during collisions and about three-quarters occur during the tackle. Because the risk is so high in children, you have to take it out.”

She cited a study of Ulster schoolchildren, which recorded 425 injuries among 825 schoolboys in a single season. “Would you want your child to have a 36 per cent rate of injury in a season? Would you want them to have a 10 to 20 per cent chance of concussion in a season?”

Concussions’ effects

“We forget children want to resemble the professional players,” Prof Pollock said. “They do bodybuilding and take protein supplements that are injurious for health. They look like monsters but they’re disguising the fact that they’ve got fragile little bones.

“If rugby was a drug, it wouldn’t be allowed on the market because of the amount of harm involved. Letting World Rugby be in charge of schools rugby is like letting McDonald’s be in charge of the school canteen.”

Tackling ban

She began to study rugby injuries more than a decade ago after her son suffered serious injuries playing the game.

The group has written to the Irish Government as well but has yet to receive a response.

She said governments everywhere were “making a big deal” about rushing out initiatives to deal with the problem. “But this is all after the event. It is shutting the stable door. What we need is primary prevention – stopping them being injured in the first place.”

Once a child had been injured, he or she was much more likely to have a repeat injury, Prof Pollock said.

“This is a game which is part of the Empire,” she said. “It is also big business – billions and billions. Parents don’t know that the laws of the game are decided by World Rugby, and it is only interested in the professional game.”