I read an article recently in one of the big newspapers in which Allyson Pollock, mother of 14 year old Hamish, describes how she was happier when her teenage son gave up rugby. He broke his cheekbone and was left unconscious through a stray knee. A year prior, Hamish had broken his leg in a tackle. Some pretty tough luck there for young Hamish. It’s not nice to think of our kids being injured doing something they do for enjoyment.
After the first injury, the school had assured Allyson that her son would not be at any more risk by returning to the pitch. She goes on to say that once you have been injured once you are more likely to be injured again. Surely that would relate to the previous injury though? If someone receives a leg injury and then is very unfortunate and then breaks their cheekbone there is nothing more than bad luck at play here.
Through the article she describes how traumatic the situation was and I have no doubt that it was very much so.
However, when I read these articles, I understand that it is opinion but describing the injury is only scaremongering.
There are risks involved with most sports and if we assess how many kids and juniors are actually turning out each Sunday morning across the UK, I am sure the number of serious injuries is very low.
She uses words and phrases like ‘shock’, ‘fear’, ‘spinal injury’ and ‘smashed skulls’ in her article. I can totally empathise with someone being in shock having seen their child get injured playing sport - who wouldn’t? A fair assessment needs to be made though.
The game is moving forward much more quickly now than when I was playing junior rugby and the skills and understanding of the game are much more complete. I still feel the level of coaching in the UK isn’t what it should be which is why we see the International teams struggling to compete on a consistent basis with the likes of New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.
Far too often we see players running in contact when there is space either side of a defender or hurtle into a defender when there might be other solutions to the problems in front of them - surely our game needs to become more creative to make it a safer past time?
Coaching standards are key to making improvements and certainly when it comes to high ball catches and tackling, it is easy to see where big improvements can be made enabling the game to be safer for everyone involved.
Questioning why parents protect their children and then allow them to play rugby is ridiculous and is a reflection of the ‘nanny state’ that we have created.
In a time when Health & Safety is paramount and with hoops to jump through in abundance, we are starting to stifle opportunity available to children through OUR concerns which are amplified by opinion and not fact.
Dads taking their kids to rugby and shouting to little Jonny to tackle is not neglect or a sign of parents living their lives through their kids. Rugby has so much to offer everyone who plays the game. Tackling, if done with technique is something that can be safe and something that there need not be a fear of.
We are becoming too negative towards the games available to kids at school. There will always be injuries. There will always be very unfortunate people who suffer severe injury but that isn’t confined to rugby!
There are examples of injury in football, cricket, horse riding, gymnastics and many other sports but we don’t seem to analyse them as much as we do rugby. Clearly there is a focus through the issues of concussion but let’s please get a balance in place.
The game isn’t all doom and gloom and even the people that I have met who have suffered catastrophic injury will say to you that their injury was the freak one, not the norm.
I get passionate about individuals being offered opportunities through rugby, as it allows people to take so much and draws so many people together.
Let’s not start blowing it apart by scaremongering and negativity aimed at parts of the game that can always be singled out. There are so many more kids that leave mini and junior rugby with fond memories than those that don’t…