Children's bodies can't cope with rugby collisions, surgeon warns
Young children's bodies are not designed for the impact they are taking in rugby matches - and players as young as nine are regularly hospitalised with broken bones, according to a leading surgeon at the Beacon Hospital.
Orthopaedic surgeon Maurice Neligan said children's joints are not full formed and injuries sustained at a young age could lead to serious problems in adulthood.
Mr Neligan is the chief orthopaedic surgeon at the hospital, which he joined in 2012. He had previously worked as a consultant at Tallaght Hospital.
He said rugby is a lot more "confrontational than it was 20 or 30 years ago", even at younger ages.
"I'm not sure if their bodies or joints are designed for that type of impact," Mr Neligan said.
"Your joints aren't fully formed and it could be a real problem for the younger player as they get older, having sustained injuries at a younger age.
"I see a lot of injuries in knees and shoulders and we're seeing them at 9, 10, 11 years old - where these athletes aren't even skeletally mature - and it poses a real problem to fix them and to get them back into sport and into life ahead," he added.
The surgeon, pictured, told the Irish Independent that it's important to assess the best way to avoid the high impact injuries that are having a dangerous effect on players.
As a former rugby player himself, he suggested several different changes that could have a positive effect on younger players if introduced to the sport.
"I think a couple of things have been suggested, such as having the younger players play in weight categories instead of age categories," he said.
"I think specific coaching around the tackle and recycling of the ball, and maybe looking at ways players aren't seeking to collide but seeking to evade, like they were when I was playing.
"It would also improve the visual spectacle, but there needs to be some work from the top down especially in the under age groups," he added.
Mr Nelligan is set to speak at a conference aimed at bringing parents, coaches and young rugby players together to discuss ways of bringing the games forward for the health and safety of children.
The Generation X event is set to take place at the Aviva Stadium on August 27, with Ireland coach, Joe Schmidt also speaking.