More needs to be done to ensure the safety of young rugby players, according to an article in the British Medical Journal.
Writing in the BMJ this week, Professor Allyson Pollock and colleagues at Queen Mary University of London said that the UK government plan to increase participation in rugby in schools has not been informed by injury data. What´s more, it is being introduced in the absence of injury surveillance systems to record injuries occurring on the field and in training.
The article highlighted the high rates of injury in rugby union and rugby league for professional and amateur players, including children. For example, around 12% of child and adolescent rugby players sustain an injury severe enough that they have to take at least seven days out from playing in a season.
The UK government listed rugby union and rugby league among the five sports it wants to focus on to increase the prominence of competitive sport in schools in England. Yet most rugby injury surveillance and prevention programmes established since the late 2000s have not been evaluated, the authors argued.
Given that children are more susceptible to injuries such as concussion and often take longer to fully recover, the government´s plan to increase funding of and participation in rugby in schools in the absence of a comprehensive system for injury surveillance and prevention is worrying, they warned.
The experts said that the government needs to ensure the safety and effectiveness of school sports, and they called for injury prevention programmes to be evaluated to ensure a successful approach to reducing injury rates.
“Only by collecting injury data and by providing feedback to individuals and organisations working on safety initiatives will the short- and long-term impact of injury prevention programmes, whether for rugby or any other sport, be known,” they concluded.