A GROUP of more than 70 British health experts is calling on the governments in Britain and Ireland to ban rugby tackles in school games.
The group have written an open letter to government ministers in both countries, warning of the high risk of serious injury and urging schools to introduce no-contact rugby instead.
The letter, signed by sport academics Professors Eric Anderson and Allyson Pollock, says: “The majority of all injuries occur during contact or collision, such as the tackle and the scrum.
“These injuries, which include fractures, ligamentous tears, dislocated shoulders, spinal injuries and head injuries, can have short-term, life-long and life-ending consequences for children.”
The letter, which is addressed to Ireland’s Health Minister Leo Varadkar, Northern Irish Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure Caráil Ní Chuilín and British Health Minister Jeremy Hunt among others, also calls members of the public to sign a petition to ban rugby tackles.
Prof Anderson, a University of Winchester academic, and Prof Pollock of St Mary’s University London also cite the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child – which both countries have signed – as a reason to change the rules, highlighting that it obliges governments to inform children about injury risks.
Offaly native Lisa Mangan, a PE teacher in St Paul’s School for girls in Birmingham, told The Irish Post: “I completely agree with it, there should not be any contact in underage sport.”
Ms Mangan, who has been living in Britain for 13 years, believes that school-going children are unable for the physicality of contact rugby.
“There are so many serious injuries they can pick up and most schools probably don’t have the medical facilities to deal with them.”
In many British and Irish schools, the physical education curriculum requires that pupils partake in a variety of sports, including rugby.
Ms Mangan does not teach contact rugby but said she would be concerned for her son, if he was playing it in PE.
“We only do touch rugby,” she said.
“I know if my son was playing contact rugby in school, I wouldn’t be comfortable with it because I know the types of injuries that can occur.”
In the letter, the group states that concussion is the most common injury picked up in school rugby games.
A spokesperson for England’s Rugby Football Union said that “high quality coaching, officiating, medical support and appropriate player behaviour” would reduce the risk of injury.
The spokesperson added that the organisation carried out a three-year injury prevention study on injuries picked up in schoolboy rugby games.