Schoolboy rugby tackling needs to be made safer

There is a lot of discussion about the dangers of aspects of rugby for young children especially. Many serious head injuries lead to brain damage, and even death.

Prof Steve Cornelius, Head of the Department of Private Law at the University of Pretoria (UP), has entered the debate on whether tackles should be banned in schools rugby with an article in Health24 this week.

John Maytham spoke to him about ways that the sport could be made safer without losing the skills development needed to get ahead at a senior level.

One of the arguments in England was just to ban tackling in the schools rugby, and that will of course create the problem that once the players go into the senior levels where there is tackling, they wont be prepared for that and the injuries at that level will be much worse.

Prof Steve Cornelius, Head of the Department of Private Law at the University of Pretoria

But the risks of injury at a schoolboy level are serious. Prof. Cornelius says rugby authorities are doing what they can to minimize risk.

They've done quite a lot to alleviate risk by changing the rules relating to tackling.

Prof Steve Cornelius, Head of the Department of Private Law at the University of Pretoria

He says there is a lot of pressure from parents and coaches to perform, and that results in more serious injuries occurring.

He says they need to ensure the correct height of tackles, and encourage boys to go in lower, towards the middle of the body.

Also lifting tackles have been banned, and I am very glad to see that very well policed.

Prof Steve Cornelius, Head of the Department of Private Law at the University of Pretoria

Another idea, adopted in Australian and New Zealand schools rugby is to introduce weight groups.

Making sure kids are relatively the same size which will reduce damage of collisions.

Prof Steve Cornelius, Head of the Department of Private Law at the University of Pretoria

It is a tricky issue, as any child who wishes to go on to play rugby at a senior level, needs to develop the skills to tackle.

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