Danger of boys’ rugby exposed. Should participants in sporting activities be insured or face co-payments?

The Sunday Times (Sarah Kate-Templeton) on 24th August 2014 reports: Danger of boys’ rugby exposed

A LEADING public health expert says she would have prevented her two sons from playing rugby if she had known at the time about the risk of serious injury described in her new book.

In Tackling Rugby: What Every Parent Should Know, to be published next month, Allyson Pollock, of Queen Mary University of London, warns that schoolboy rugby players have a one-in-six chance of serious injury every season.

“Imagine as a parent you were told that, over the course of a season, the average risk of serious injury to a player is 17%, or one in six, and that in some schools it is as high as 33%, one in three,” she said. “The decision to allow your child to play might alter.”…

…Dan James, 23, a former England youth player, committed suicide at the Dignitas clinic in 2008 after he was left tetraplegic from a spinal injury.

The Rugby Football Union said: “Player safety and duty of care towards players is at the core of all the training we deliver to coaches, referees and medics. Like many recreational activities there is an element of injury risk in playing rugby, but we do not believe that this is disproportionate to other sports played by young people.”

People die in lots of sports, from skiing to surfing to cycling and rallying. The rate of injuries in rugby seems high, but there is no national register of sports injuries as yet. Such a register could compare risk per outing.

It is interesting to know that the regional health services insure all sporting participants without any premium increase. There is no “extra” premium to take part in Rock Climbing or Rugby rather than tiddlywinks….. Surely it is time for the sports clubs to cover their members in some way. The reality of rationing health services overtly demands some sort of  contribution. Alternatively a co-payment on consumption would seem fair…

Update 6th Nov 2014:

Melanie Reid in The Times opines in her notebook:

Sad to say this, and perhaps only a mother who has sat too long in A&E on a Saturday afternoon could, but the glorification of Sam Burgess proves that rugby simply doesn’t get it. Burgess is the wrecking ball of rugby league who has just switched codes to union. He is being talked up as a future star of England on the strength of the physical punishment he can inflict and withstand.

He is regarded as a hero — some might use another word — because in his last league game, in Australia, despite fracturing an eye socket and cheekbone in the first minute, he played on for 79 more and his team won its first championship for 43 years.

Commentators speak reverentially of the four plates in his cheekbone. He’s so intimidating, they say. King of the “big hit”. In fact pound for pound, they gasp, no other players can “hit” like he does. They drool at the thought of the collisions to come.

Rugby is the greatest of games but the culture of the big hit is destroying it. There are not enough adolescents with freakish bodies to sacrifice. There are too many ruined bodies and frightened mothers. The England player Joe Launchbury, a man built like a tree, is out for six weeks with a neck injury.

Ten days ago, in a single match, Scotland’s new captain, Grant Gilchrist, broke his arm and four of his Edinburgh team mates left the field with a broken jaw, a fractured cheekbone, knee ligament damage and concussion.

That’s one third of a professional rugby team, men trained to withstand injury, seriously injured. Is that what we want?

Letters Nov 4th:

Sir, Melanie Reid is right in her condemnation of the “big hit” in modern rugby (“Rugby score: broken jaws 2, fractured cheekbones 1”, Notebook, Nov 4). The rugby authorities and particularly the “law book” authors would do well to give serious thought to her article.

At any one time about 25 per cent of players at the top level are unavailable for selection because of injury. Assuming that an individual player is injured for 25 per cent of the season and that the season lasts 32 weeks, he would expect to be out of action for eight weeks. At a rate of four weeks per injury, he would expect two injuries per season. Further, assuming a senior career of 12 years, he could expect 24 injuries of this severity over his career. The authorities should properly consider the long-term effects of these injuries on the quality of the player’s later life.

John Owen
Trefriw, Conwy

Sir, Having watched a good Ulster team being outmuscled by an immense Toulon team recently, I share Melanie Reid’s concern about big hits in rugby.

Could we learn from the airlines with their cabin baggage templates? Put a gate at the end of the players’ tunnel, and if you do not fit through you don’t get onto the pitch.

TJ Robinson
Banbridge, Co Down


This entry was posted in A Personal View, Rationing, Stories in the Media on by .

About Roger Burns - retired GP

I am a retired GP and medical educator. I have supported patient participation throughout my career, and my practice, St Thomas; Surgery, has had a longstanding and active Patient Participation Group (PPG). I support the idea of Community Health Councils, although I feel they should be funded at arms length from government. I have taught GP trainees for 30 years, and been a Programme Director for GP training in Pembrokeshire 20 years. I served on the Pembrokeshire LHG and LHB for a total of 10 years. I completed an MBA in 1996, and I along with most others, never had an exit interview from any job in the NHS! I completed an MBA in 1996, and was a runner up for the Adam Smith prize for economy and efficiency in government in that year. This was owing to a suggestion (St Thomas' Mutual) that practices had incentives for saving by being allowed to buy rationed out services in the following year.

1 thought on “Danger of boys’ rugby exposed. Should participants in sporting activities be insured or face co-payments?

  1. Pingback: Too many Rugby World Cup injuries? | NHS reality. An NHS soapbox. Speakers' corner for the NHS.

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