'˜Car crash injuries' fuel contact debate

Teenage rugby players suffer injuries normally seen in road crashes, doctors have said as the row over contact sport continues.

Wednesday, 9th March 2016, 7:00 am

Research published in medical journal BMJ Case Reports has been used to suggest a change in tackling rules for youngsters to prevent the “potentially devastating consequences of these injuries”.

Earlier this month more than 70 doctors and health experts wrote to the government calling for a ban on full-contact in school rugby games.

The pleas have been met with opposition from a string of ex-professionals including former Warriors star Darrell Goulding.

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Mr Goulding told the Evening Post better coaching on tackle technique at a young age was the best way to prevent serious injuries.

However, the medical research on how head injuries can have devastating effects for young players has added weight to the calls for schools to play touch rugby.

In the latest report, doctors from the department of trauma and orthopaedics at Tallaght Hospital in Dublin, described three cases where young players were seriously injured during rugby tackles, having reported two cases previously.

They said the types of fractures they suffered are “acetabular fractures... (which) affect the socket of the hip bone, and are generally sustained after violent trauma, such as road traffic accidents”.

The teenagers were aged 13 to 16 when they were injured. The injuries occurred while playing rugby union, two during seasonal match play and one during a training drill.

The injuries followed pressure exerted through a flexed hip with the knee on the ground - a position that can be encountered during a two-man tackle, as one tackler hits low and the other hits high, the doctors wrote.

The boys suffered three fractures in total together with hip dislocations. All recovered following surgery and rehabilitation.

The doctors said: “In order to prevent the potentially devastating consequences of these injuries it may be necessary to implement rule changes or size restrictions in the juvenile game.”

They added: “Many schools and juvenile rugby clubs have adopted a more professional attitude towards the game, with a significant emphasis being placed on weight training and physical size.”

Mr Goulding, who retired last year after a series of concussion related injuries, said: “From a rugby league point of view, it’s a tackling issue and that can be helped by good coaching and improving technique.

“Wigan is a club where our coaches go into schools and talk to the teachers to help them.

“Some teachers may not be from a rugby background and may need that support.”