Is playing rugby dangerous? On the contrary, it’s safe, says a governing body


By AGENCY
  • Family
  • Thursday, 30 Nov 2023

For parents with a child who plays rugby, an all-action contact sport where brute force is key, serious head injuries have long been a concern. — Photos: dpa

FOR PARENTS with a child who plays rugby, an all-action contact sport where brute force is key, serious head injuries have long been a concern. Despite coming across as a particularly bloody sport, a governing body says new research shows the risk is low.

The recent Rugby World Cup was marred by multiple refereeing inconsistencies when it came to adjudicating head-to-head or body-to-head impacts.

Despite the use of slow-motion replay and VAR-style television match officials to assist the on-field ref, teams and supporters were left baffled and infuriated by calls that saw players penalised in some cases, and not, or more leniently, in other cases, for what looked like similar clashes.

But for the amateur and the parent whose child plays rugby – an all-action contact sport where brute force and physical intensity count for a lot more than in football – the concern has long been more around preventing serious head injury.

Rugby can come across as a particularly bloody contact sport, however a governing body says new research shows the risk of serious head injury is low.Rugby can come across as a particularly bloody contact sport, however a governing body says new research shows the risk of serious head injury is low.

Governing body World Rugby is now seeking to counter accusations that the sport is not safe, while aiming to “deliver” on a plan to make rugby the “most progressive” sport when it comes to player welfare.

“Most contact events in elite rugby do not result in any significant force to the head,” World Rugby said, citing research carried out in partnership with Ulster University in Northern Ireland and the University of Otago in New Zealand.

The project looked into “over 17,000 separate head acceleration events across more than 300 players from senior rugby through to U13s level” in what World Rugby claimed to be the biggest-ever overview of “the forces experienced by rugby players.”

Interest in rugby spiked during 2023's world cup, which saw South Africa narrowly defeat New Zealand in the final.Interest in rugby spiked during 2023's world cup, which saw South Africa narrowly defeat New Zealand in the final.

‘Same or less’

In lower-grade rugby, the forces on the head are “the same or less than those experienced in general exercise such as running and jumping.”

The findings should, the body contended, “provide players and parents with greater clarity and confidence than ever before into the benefits and safety of rugby, are a first anywhere in world sport.”

World Rugby earlier claimed players at all levels are less likely to develop obesity or heart disease, thereby saving around US$1.5bil (RM7bil) a year in health costs and related losses, such as from time off work.

The expectation is that such savings could be increased as more people take up the sport in countries such as Portugal and Uruguay, two of the relative novice contestants at the Rugby World Cup, which saw South Africa retaining the championship after narrowly defeating New Zealand in the final.

The decider saw the famously-combative Springboks crowned for a record-breaking fourth time, but only after the losing captain was sent off for making contact with an opponent’s head while making a tackle – and after the winning captain was given a lighter sanction for a similar incident. – dpa

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