Indiana, USA – There is a lot of excitement about the USA Eagles versus the New Zealand All Blacks game going on this weekend. I am excited too but we will get to that in a minute. With all that talk of the big game helping grow rugby in the USA by getting more kids involved, I saw something that had me fired up enough to get on my keyboard and write this article. That something is the issue of Rugby and Injuries that come from playing. Recently, Professor Allyson Pollock of London, England, published a book, Tackling Rugby: What Every Parent Should Know About Injuries. In a piece in the Daily Mail, Professor Pollock explains that she performed a “pilot study of six schools in Edinburgh”, which led her to believe that tackle rugby should not be a mandatory sport in schools and that touch rugby should be played instead of tackle rugby in a school setting. A very good follow-up, addressing this as well as the broader picture, was posted by Tim Lewis in The Guardian. I encourage you to read both pieces to form your own opinions.
Reading the comments of those pieces, you’ll see there’s a wide variety of thoughts and opinions on this subject (including here at RWU). A friend of mine, Scheens Harrington, my English friend in France (EFF), and I were discussing the issue, too, and here’s where we ended up:
- As parents, it’s our #1 job to protect our kids, or at least try. We do our due diligence when we can.
- Tackle rugby is a contact sport; risk is involved.
- We’re confused as to why tackle rugby would be mandatory? (That is not the case in America; we have to sign documents to allow our kids to play, stating that we do understand the risks.) Kids who do not want to play contact rugby perhaps shouldn’t be forced to play; not wanting to play may lead to not paying attention, etc., possibly increasing risk of injury (imo).
- Touch rugby is not a bad idea for younger kids. My thought, as someone living in a country where rugby is not as common as it is overseas, is that playing touch rugby first might be beneficial if it teaches the concepts and flows of the game and emphasizes the basics (like passing that darn, odd-shaped ball efficiently and well), resulting in a more-informed rugby player later.
- We like the emphasis placed on concussion recognition by the IRB with their “Recognise and Remove” campaign, as well as by USA Rugby and other national rugby organizations. I do think the atmosphere surrounding concussions in all sports is changing, quickly, and for the better.
- Other injuries may possibly be avoided or minimized by proper play and correct instruction (and lots of practice, of course). It was actually through reading the comments Tim Lewis’ piece that I learned that referees have a good deal of discretion that they can use to judge a match. Through this discretion, they can help to “level the playing field”, so to speak, and potentially avoid or at least minimize injuries. (This is my take from it; you may have a different one. And that’s ok!!)
We could literally talk for hours about all the points being made by everyone, and neither I nor my friend are an expert by any stretch. The bottom line is parents need to understand the risks involved in any sport their kids play. In the U.S., parents sign off on permission forms that essentially say we understand there are risks, etc. There are risks in anything we do, and some things have higher risks than others. Contact sports generally have a higher risk than non-contact sports. There is a difference between your child playing it (you permitting your child to play, and assuming the risks involved for them) and an adult making a decision, on his or her own, to play the sport.
It comes down to the individual as well – what level of risk are you comfortable with, what are the odds, etc. Rugby is a terrific sport that we’ve enjoyed, and honestly I’ve seen more smiles via rugby than most other sports (with the exception of young girls’ softball – they are always smiling! – and even that is not without injury, as we witnessed this year when our softball player was hit in the face with a ball). At the end of the day, this is a good conversation to have about a sport we love.
USA Eagles-NZ All Blacks AIG Test Match in Chicago, Illinois, USA: We are ready to go!! Mostly. I’m still ironing out logistical details, I’ve secured a few hotel rooms if needed, and I’ve purchased a parking pass for Soldier Field. [The parking pass is a huge relief because I literally have nightmares about driving around in circles around the Soldier Field area, and getting stuck on one-way roads that lead in the wrong direction, and then parking a mile away.] At this point, after hearing about snow in Chicago recently, I’m really hoping for a 60-degree day, with no wind and lots of sunshine! Next week I’ll start assembling all that I need to take to be fully-prepared, including binoculars for my non-front-row seats.
Also – I’m sooooooo excited to see the Haka performed LIVE by the All Blacks!! It gives me goosebumps! I don’t want it drowned out by chants of “USA! USA!” but I’m hoping we can do those chants when our fabulous USA Eagles take the field or after the Haka. Who’s with me?
That’s it for now. Feel free to comment below, please look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter@:RugbyWrapUp, Junoir Blaber, Nick Hall, James Harrington, Jamie Wall, Jaime Loyd, DJ Eberle, Cody Kuxmann, Karen Ritter, Jake Frechette and Declan Yeats, respectively.