Rugby in Schools

The Six Nations competition is more than half way through. So far it has not been the greatest spectacle of free flowing exciting rugby.

One issue has however overshadowed the competition and that is the spectre of concussion caused by the brutal collisions prevalent in the modern game. Already two prominent players, George North of Wales and Jonathan Sexton of Ireland  have come under the spotlight as potentially suffering from the effects of concussion.

These are of course professional sportsmen and their health and wellbeing is prominent in the minds of their clubs and countries.

But what about those playing the game outside of the professional environment and in particular in schools?

Today Headway UK – the brain injury association,  issued a statement commenting on a call, by doctors and health experts, to ban full contact rugby in schools. Headway recognises the need to protect the welfare of children but also the benefits of participation in team sport and the skills that are learnt.

One school has however already addressed this dilemma with the introduction of a novel idea which allows the full contact game but seeks to reduce the risk of injury.

Wellington School in Somerset has grouped its players into weight categories for games in much the same way as boxers. Read more here.

It is an interesting idea and may work well within the school itself but what about competitive games between schools? Unless the other local schools adopt the same practice it is not likely to have the benefits hoped for.

One thing is certain – this issue is not going to go away and with the increase in studies both here and in the US on the long term impact of multiple collisions on brain function I foresee changes in the rules of sport to protect those playing it at whatever level.

Martin Pettingell, Head of Serious Injury and Clinical Negligence Department at Clarke Willmott LLP and Chairman of Headway Somerset