More than 70 doctors and health experts from the UK and US have written to the Minister for Sport, the Chief Medical Officer, and the Children’s Ombudsman, calling for a ban on tackling in school rugby games. In an open letter, also sent to authorities in the UK, they warn of the high risk of serious injury among under-18s and urge schools to move to touch and non-contact versions of the game.
It describes rugby as a “high-impact collision sport” and states “children are being left exposed to serious and catastrophic risk of injury.
It also points to the fact that Ireland, along with the UK, is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and, as such, has a duty to protect children from injury.
We also, of course, have a new constitutional provision that says basically the same thing.
In response, the IRFU said it believes that the life-long health and personal benefits of rugby, and other contact sports, far outweigh the risks.
That is all very well, but where are the studies to prove it? It may well be that only a tiny percentage of children who play school rugby suffer catastrophic injuries. But, to the child involved, the lifelong consequences may be 100%.