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A group of 70 UK doctors are calling for tackling in rugby to be banned at schools throughout Britain in a bid to prevent potentially life-threatening brain injuries.
The medical professionals have written to the government to urge them to consider banning this element of the sport in PE lessons due to the growing number of devastating head injuries that are recorded each year.
At present, the Rugby Football Union (RFU) is part way through its programme to roll out the sport to one million children attending UK state schools by 2019, with 400 schools already signed up to the scheme.
However, there are concerns that as another 350 schools are added to the initiative over the next three years, the number of serious injuries sustained as a result of increased tackling could rise significantly.
The letter states: "The majority of all injuries occur during contact or collision, such as the tackle and the scrum. These injuries, which include fractures, ligamentous tears, dislocated shoulders, spinal injuries and head injuries can have short-term, lifelong and life-ending consequences for children."
Professor Allyson Pollock of the Queen Mary University of London is one of its signatories, and she drew on statistics that show young rugby players have a 28 per cent chance of suffering an injury due to tackling over the course of one season or 15 matches. She estimates that this means 300,000 injuries and 100,000 concussions will be sustained in just a 12-month period.
Furthermore, 90 per cent of these accidents result in at least seven days' school being missed, meaning the sport could also be having an adverse impact on young people's education.
In response to the letter, the RFU explained that it took the safety of rugby players of all ages 'extremely seriously' and believes the sport has many benefits, including character building, as well as helping to combat the spiralling problem of childhood obesity, but encourages players to wear protective headgear and mouthguards.
Written by James Puckle
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