Banning tackling in school rugby matches could lead to players suffering "serious injury" going forward after being prevented from learning the proper technical skills, according to head injury charity Headway. An open letter to ministers from over 70 doctors and academics has demanded children only be exposed to non-contact rugby when they reach adulthood.
The letter claimed that two third of injuries in youth rugby were down to tackles and that any continuation would have "life-ending consequences for children". Doctors added that there was a direct link between concussion and long-term problems including cognitive impairment, depression, memory loss and diminished verbal abilities.
Doctors sent the correspondence to ministers, chief medical officers and children's commissioners in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Head injury charity Headway have responded saying outlawing tackling could actually put players in danger when they come to later life.
"We can see the merit in limiting contact in rugby in younger children, but it is difficult to define where the line should be drawn in terms of at what age players should be introduced to full-contact rugby," a spokesman for the association said. "It is vital to ensure players are taught the correct tackling techniques in rugby. If they are prevented from tackling until they are 18, they will be ill-prepared for adult rugby and would be more likely to sustain serious injury as a result.
"Rugby has committed to improving concussion awareness and protocols, and a significant amount of change has occurred over the past few years. The sport has to take credit for this, although it is clear the momentum needs to be maintained with awareness and education campaigns at grassroots level.
"We would like to see the government provide concussion awareness training to all teachers – not just those conducting the sports lessons. Sports teachers must adopt an 'if in doubt, sit it out!' approach and receive mandatory concussion training."