Concussion expert: don't let children play rugby
A leading expert on head injuries, on whose campaigning work the new Will Smith movie 'Concussion' is based, says parents should not allow their children to play rugby.
Forensic pathologist Dr Bennet Omalu discovered the brain disease Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy after performing an autopsy on an American footballer. The finding led to a US$1bn compensation payment for ex-players.
Stressing a player doesn't need to be concussed to suffer brain damage playing sport, Dr Omalu said children's health is at risk.
"We should wait for our children to become adequately developed, the brain of a child becomes fully developed at around 18-25 years old," he told Newstalk's 'The Right Hook'.
Dr Omalu added that he is not anti-American football or anti-rugby, but that "we should tap into the great ingenuity of mankind and come up with more brilliant ways we can play these games and keep our children safe".
Concussion is topical in rugby after an incident involving Ireland out-half Johnny Sexton two weeks ago. The player was cleared of concussion and will start for Ireland against Wales in the Six Nations on Sunday.
But Dr Omalu said: "If he was my brother, that would worry me.
"The human brain does not have any reasonable capacity to regenerate or heal itself, so once you suffer an injury, that injury is permanent."