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Is Rugby Safe for Children?

With everyone’s focus on the Rugby World Cup, it’s no surprise that more children are getting involved in the contact sport. However, most people are unaware that Rugby is one of the most dangerous team sports regularly practised in schools with injury rates nearly three times higher than those sustained in soccer due to the nature of the contact sport.

A survey conducted by Doctors at the Edinburgh University’s Centre for International Public Health Policy showed that injury rates were 10.8 per 1,000 playing hours.  ‘The sport is not safe enough for school children and not enough is being done to protect the safety of school children’ claims author of the report Prof. Allison Pollock. However, Dr Andy-Franklyn Miller a Sports Physician and former U18s England rugby Doctor disputes this, claiming the report had used presentation to A&E as the definition of injury and that could have been a cut or a sprain the kids could have sustained doing something else if it hadn’t been Rugby.

‘Children’s sports injuries differ from those sustained by adults’, explains Chartered Physiotherapist Caroline Knox. ‘Unlike adults, children experience sudden growth spurts, the peak of growth is 14 years and generally stops when the child is 16 to 17 Years old. This can lead to soft tissue injuries as children’s flexibility lags behind their bone growth during this time and they can sustain injuries at the site where the muscles attach into their bones, with these areas hardening in adulthood.’ Caroline also describes how inappropriate weight training technique in children can lead to injuries at the site where bones grow known as the growth plate, with this area hardening in adulthood.  ’A Chartered Physiotherapist can advise on appropriate strength training for the childs age group and teach appropriate stretching exercises in order to gain optimum flexibility to avoid and manage such injuries.’ In addition to this, Caroline advises that children who complain of lower limb pain or who have lowered arches/flat feet will benefit from the additional support provided by orthotics fitted in their rugby boot and this will also help prevent future lower limb problems developing.

Children should also be introduced to the game gradually, starting young children with the non-contact element of the sport and introducing the more physical elements as the children grow up so they do not have to endure pushing in scrums and tackling and jumping in line-outs until they’re much older and their bodies are strong enough.

Caroline Knox is a Chartered Physiotherapist and Acupuncturist in our Baggot Street clinic. Caroline specialises in musculoskeletal and sports injuries.