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Doctors urge ban on tackling in school rugby games to prevent serious injury

Tackling should be banned in school rugby games due to the risk of “serious injury” among under-18s, a group of more than 70 doctors and health experts have warned.

In an open letter to ministers, medical officers and children’s commissioners, doctors describe rugby as a “high-impact collision sport” and urged schools to switch to touch rugby and non-contact rugby.

They argue two-thirds of injuries in youth rugby and most concussions are down to tackles and force schools to move to touch and non-contact rugby.

Supporters say rugby builds character and other forms are less challenging.

The concerns have been raised as a seven-year programme headed by the Rugby Football Union is on target to introduce rugby to a million children in state schools across England.

The RFU’s programme, which began in 2012 and is running until 2019, has so far reached 400 schools, with 350 to follow.



Prof Allyson Pollock, of the Queen Mary University of London, was among those to sign the much-disputed letter.

“Rugby is a high-impact collision sport and given that children are more susceptible to injuries such as concussion, the absence of injury surveillance systems and primary prevention strategies is worrying.

“Children are being left exposed to serious and catastrophic risk of injury. As a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the UK and Irish governments should ensure the safety of rugby, by removing the contact from the children’s game in schools.”

– PROF ALLYSON POLLOCK, QUEEN MARY UNIVERSITY OF LONDON



The Rugby Football Union (RFU) said schools were already able to choose between playing rugby as a contact or a non-contact sport, while “building blocks” to gradually introduce contact had been provided.

“This means that full 15-a-side rugby will begin a year later at under 14 and provide a gradual and more managed introduction of the contact game around the tackle will take place from under nine to under 12 instead of over just two years at under nine and under 10 as previously.

“This will give players, teachers and coaches more time to master the techniques in a safer and more supportive environment.”