Banning tackling in schools would be 'counterproductive' says rugby coach

11 Oct 2017

A rugby coach from Norfolk has described talk of banning tackling in schools as "counterproductive" and believes such a step would lead to more injuries in the future.

A recent study conducted by Professor Allyson Pollock from Newcastle University called on the government to remove "harmful collisions" from youth rugby in a bid to protect children.

Writing for the British Medical Journal, Prof Pollock suggested the government has "a duty to protect children from risks of injury" as well as "ensuring the safety of children".

However, Langley School Director of Sport Tim Malone thinks introducing players to contact at a later age would only make things worse.

"I don't think it's a good idea and I think it would be counterproductive if we start introducing 12, 13, 14 stone adults into collisions for the very first time in their lives," Malone said.

"I think that would be a terrible situation. It's judged by the evolution of the professional game where we're seeing people getting bigger and stronger and faster, so the hits are bigger.

"But, actually at schools, children are still children. So the game hasn't changed in that sense but what has changed is the safety - so it's never actually been safer to play rugby in school."

'Headway', who are a brain injury charity, said in a statement that they welcomed the research but were keen for children to keep playing contact sports.

Instead, they would like the focus to shift towards better awareness of concussion as well as coaching young players how to tackle safely.

"The authors of this article raise a number of valid points and any research into the short and long-term effects of concussions has to be welcomed," Peter McCabe, Chief Executive of Headway, said.

“However, it is important that we take a holistic approach to this issue and guard against any unintended consequences of implementing a ban on contact rugby in schools.

“Sport plays a key role in keeping us fit and health, while team sports can instil discipline and teamwork ethics. It is important to also recognise that we cannot mitigate all risk from life. Rather, it is about managing those risks.

“Teaching children at an early age will not only help to reduce injuries on the school playing field, but will also ensure they are adequately prepared to play club rugby either at youth or adult level."

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