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Ban Body-Checking In Rugby For Teens To Prevent Injuries, Experts Say

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Health officers in the United Kingdom are being called on to remove contact from the game of rugby to protect children from the risks of injuries.

Allyson Pollock, a professor at Newcastle University, shows evidence that banning tackling in rugby would reduce concussions, head and neck injuries, the BBC reports. However, a spokesperson for World Rugby said that the organization was not aware of any new proof that would challenge their current position.

Chief medical officers (CMOs) shot down a call for a ban on tackling in teen rugby in 2016. They pointed out that the benefits of training and playing rugby outweighed the injury risks.

Pollock, along with Graham Kirkwood, published an opinion piece in the BMJ stating that governments had “a duty to protect children from risks of injury and to ensure safety of children” under a United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Article 19).”

They discussed a study they had published in July regarding the rates and risks of injuries in sports. According to their analysis, rugby had the highest concussion rates in children at 4.18 concussions per 1,000 athlete exposures. This was far more than 1.2 for ice hockey and 0.53 for American football, both sports in which tackling is also part of the game.

The researchers cited evidence from Canada that changing the rules of the game could make a difference. A ban on body-checking in ice hockey for teams under 13 years old showed a 67% drop in concussion risks.

Pollock said kids who still want to play contact rugby can do so outside school for clubs, but schools have a responsibility not to enforce body-checking. She said,

We call on the chief medical officers to act on the evidence and advise the UK government to put the interests of the child before those of corporate professional rugby unions and remove harmful contact from the school game.

In addition, the researchers highlighted the link between head injuries and an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

The study was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

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