Recent calls made by England university academics for schools to adopt a tackle ban in rugby has already encountered opposition online. Experts from the University of Newcastle, Winchester and Oxford Brookes have written to the UK’s chief medical officers asking to ban tackling in the school environment as rugby faces a potential dementia crisis.
An ever-increasing number of former professional players are taking legal action against the sport’s authorities over the brain damage they suffered over their careers, which has caused early-onset dementia and potential Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).
Eddie Jones recently proposed outlawing tackling above waist height at school level to limit head injuries, as there is an urgent need for action to be taken. This suggestion by university academics is just another way to address the problem, but it has not proven to be too popular amongst fans.
Rugby is, of course, largely recognised as a contact sport, and many have said that it would kill off the interest in the game if tackling is banned.
But the main contention is deeper than people just wanting to preserve the identity of rugby. It has been suggested tackling would actually have an adverse effect in the long run, as children would not be taught the proper tackling technique for later life.
"I used to judge how well I had played based on how fuzzy-headed I felt at the end of a game" ?https://t.co/pTnU7N7HYR
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) December 18, 2020
This could consequently create more injuries when adults. The emphasis is therefore for school children to be taught correct tackle technique. Any opposition like this can sometimes be hastily disregarded as obstinately standing in the face of science, but the responses from many fans seem to be drawn from their own experiences growing up and playing rugby.
The burgeoning weight and power of players in the professional game is a leading cause of these brain injuries, but it is being argued online that that isn’t necessarily a problem at school level. Professional rugby, after all, is only a quarter of a century old, while rugby has been played at schools for over 100 years.
While some have also dismissed this by saying you do not have to play rugby if you don’t want to, people should not be deprived of the game’s aspects and benefits other than the contact side of it. Further, the request is only that tackling is banned in the school environment, meaning children have a choice outside of school.
Many would agree that action must be taken and this is just one potential solution to the current problem. Weight classes are another approach that has been taken around the world to make the game safer. But with any suggestion like this, there are inevitably some queries.
How about a campaign to teach youngsters how to tackle properly. The art of tackling is easier to teach when young before bad habits are formed.
It is time for world rugby’s sanctions on illegal tackling / ruck entry to become harsher.
— Ifortitsfwl (@ifortitsffwl) December 18, 2020
I know I’m quite old, but when I played rugby in school we were always taught to tackle around the waist and slide down the legs. Tackling above the waist was absolutely forbidden. I recall a PE teacher berating a lad saying ‘we’re not playing American football.’
— John Locke (@JohnLoc73871661) December 18, 2020
How or when do you learn to tackle correctly? After school when everyone is 100Kg?
— Bangkokrugby (@BenjaminJRawson) December 18, 2020
Can’t see schools rugby being the issue. It’s the professional players who are big and travelling at speed doing it in training and games every day. You can’t have 18 year old who’s never tacked suddenly get out against adults. The injury risk would be huge. Much worse
— shockingbuzz (@rosshamptonpon1) December 18, 2020
Utterly ridiculous. The benefits of playing rugby (physical, mental, development of character) far outweigh the incredibly small chance of serious injury.
As for CTE type injuries.. we have played it for 150 years and there’s no evidence of this based on playing rugby at school
— Joe D B (@JoeBrace7) December 18, 2020
Stopping contact at junior level would destroy the game. From my experience, junior level rugby is safely coached & reffed. If you ask teenage players to just play touch, most will walk away. That would be far more damaging in my view to young people, than contact rugby.
— Ian Titherington (@ianapharri) December 18, 2020
Human race is based on risk v reward. The rest of life is being ruined leave sport alone. A well coached game of full contact rugby is a lot safer than many other activities. Educate of the risks, fund proper coach development and let the kids play!
— Ben Rowe (@BMRowe81) December 18, 2020
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