Take the tackling out of the rugby? Another way....
There has been a lot in the news this week about injury in childrens Rugby, and some reactionary resonses about taking the tacking out of the game.
Anyone who has played rugby will know that this would be like taking punching out of boxing. It would not be the same sport.
As a sports surgeon I see significant numbers of injured youngsters from rugby each year often with very serious injuries needing surgery. It is true that these are nearly always due to heavy contact. And I am in two minds about the idea of taking tackling out, as the injuries can be terrible and devastating. However it would not be rugby without the tackling.
But lets take a step back here. The current reaction has noted a correlation between injury and tackling, but is this the cause? I think we can drill down further.
The other very obvious factor in all of the injuries that I persoanlly see in children and adolescents is size mismatch. Teams at the school and club level are age based, and we all know that around puberty age is poor predictor of size!
For me the bigger issue is taking the age groups out of rugby and playing based on size. The vast majority is of injuries I see are to prepubescent players being injured by a much larger postpubescent players despite being of similar age. If school and junior club rugby were played with size matched teams not age-matched teams I predict we would see far fewer serious injuries, matches would be closer and more exciting, and the spirit of the game would remain unharmed.
There would be logistical diffulties especially in schools with scheduling rugby across the years, but in my mind these are not insurmountable.
Before we take the rash decison of drastically changing the game we should introduce measures such as this, and scientifically measure the impact on right and severity of injury.
The RFU should take a lead on this...