Call to ban rugby scrums in schools

Rugby scrum
Image caption The study looked at common injuries in school rugby

Rugby scrums should be banned in schools to protect children involved in a sport which is "not safe enough" for them, an expert has warned.

Professor Allyson Pollock, director of Edinburgh University's Centre for International Public Health Policy, called for the ban after research into child injuries.

The study was carried out during 190 rugby matches at five schools.

There were 37 injuries recorded, with 20 taken to accident and emergency.

Scottish Rugby said safety was an issue of the highest priority and it worked to ensure the game's laws reflected this.

The tackle was the "commonest phase of play causing injury" with the head and face the most injured body part, along with sprains or ligament damage.

Prof Pollock, one of the study's authors, said: "High tackles and scrums should be banned. The sport is not safe enough for schoolchildren and not enough is being done to protect the safety of children.

"We know that most injuries occur in tackles and the scrum so there have got to be much greater safety measures in these areas."

She said moderating play may change rugby, but it was better to have a safe game than a dangerous one.

"Concussion is under-reported because it's not being monitored properly. Repeated concussions may have severe long-term consequences," the professor added, warning that teachers and coaches have a duty of care towards children.

"If youngsters were coming back from school trips with these rates of injuries it would be enough to trigger a major inquiry."

In the 193 matches played by 470 children in Scotland between January to April last year, the injury incidence during the match play was 10.8 injuries per 1,000 player hours.

Out of 37 rugby injuries amongst the youngsters, 29 were sustained by children aged between 14 and 17 and eight in the 11 to 13 age group.

Injury surveillance

A spinal injury was admitted overnight in hospital and the 19 other injuries seen at accident and emergency were discharged without admission.

Eight of the injuries resulted in time off school. Five of those injured were off school for one day, one was off for three days, one for five days and the spinal injury caused the youngster to be "off school long-term", the research said.

The study, to be published in the Journal of Public Health, also said a rugby injury surveillance system in Scottish schools should be "strongly encouraged".

A spokesman for Scottish Rugby said: "Scottish Rugby believes player safety and welfare to be an issue of the highest priority and has been at the forefront of piloting a number of variations to the game's laws designed to make the game safer and more enjoyable for all.

"In 2009, Scottish Rugby was commended by Scotland's chief medical officer, Dr Harry Burns, and the International Rugby Board (IRB), for its groundbreaking introduction of the 'Are you ready to play rugby?' initiative."

The Scottish government helped to fund the research.

A government spokeswoman said: "We initiated preliminary work around this study and we will now look closely at the findings of the research.

"While the Scottish government is fully supportive of school rugby, it's very important we have accurate data about injuries sustained on the pitch to ensure that young people are not being exposed to disproportionate risks."

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