British doctors call for tackling ban in school rugby games

British doctors and medical experts urge government to ban tackling in school rugby matches to avoid serious injury, recommending touch rugby or non-contact rugby

Photo by: AFP (Archive)
Photo by: AFP (Archive)

London Mayor Boris Johnson and an elementary school boy collide in Tokyo on October 15, 2015 during a promotional event for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, hosted by Japan.

Over 70 doctors and medical experts sent an open letter to the British government on Wednesday calling for tackling to be banned in school rugby matches.

They warn that school rugby poses a high risk of serious injury and urge educational institutions to instead adopt touch rugby or non-contact rugby.

The letter, signed by sport scholars, academics, doctors and public health professionals, said studies show that the risks of injuries for under-18s playing rugby "are high and injuries are often serious".

"The majority of all injuries occur during contact or collision, such as the tackle and the scrum," the letter said.

"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 noted that many British secondary schools, for students aged 11-18, offered full-contact rugby as a compulsory sporting activity.

It also warned of the dangers of concussion and noted that people who have previously suffered concussion are more likely to suffer it again.

"A link has been found between repeat concussions and cognitive impairment and an association with depression, memory loss and diminished verbal abilities, as well as longer term problems," the letter added.

"Children take longer to recover to normal levels on measures of memory, reaction speed and post-concussive symptoms than adults."

The letter asserted that the government has a duty to inform children about the risks of injury enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

One of the letter's signatories, Allyson Pollock from London's Queen Mary University, said: "Children are being left exposed to serious and catastrophic risk of injury."