Monday 11 December 2017

Teen rugby injuries ‘as bad as if they were in road crash’

Doctors have described how teenage rugby players suffered serious injuries normally seen in road crashes.
Doctors have described how teenage rugby players suffered serious injuries normally seen in road crashes.
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Doctors have described how teenage rugby players suffered serious injuries normally seen in road crashes.

Irish hospital surgeons revealed their shock after treating three teenage rugby players for severe injuries.

The revelation will fuel the growing calls for rule changes in juvenile rugby  to reduce the risk of injury during intense tackling.

Last week, 70 doctors and health experts called for a ban on tackling in school rugby games.

Now doctors in Tallaght Hospital have described how boys aged 13 to 16 suffered acetabular fractures, affecting the socket of the hip bone.

These types of injuries can have potentially devastating impact on growth, future participation in sport and lifestyle.

Two of them happened during seasonal match play and one in the course of  a training drill.

The extent of the trauma suffered by the young patients is  described by surgeons David Morrissey, Daniel Good and Michael Leonard in ‘British Medical Journal’ case reports.

They warn it may be necessary to alter the rules around tackling or cut the number of players in school games to prevent the “potentially devastating consequences of these injuries”.

Dislocations

The doctors, who previously treated two similar cases, said the injuries followed pressure exerted through a flexed hip with the knee on the ground – a position that can be encountered during a two-man tackle.

It happens when one  tackler hits low and the other hits high.

The boys suffered three fractures in total, together with hip dislocations. All recovered following surgery and rehabilitation.

The doctors said: “In order to prevent the potentially devastating consequences of these injuries, it may be necessary to implement rule changes or size restrictions in the juvenile game.” They added: “Many schools and juvenile rugby clubs have adopted a more professional attitude towards the game, with a significant emphasis being placed on weight training and physical size.”

They warned that there were problems of “excessive force in an immature skeleton”.

And they noted that players might be of a similar age but different or “heterogeneous” in terms of  size, stage of development and bone age.

“This heterogeneity may be magnified at the tackle and ruck phases as physically more mature players engage with less mature counterparts, with an associated increase in injury risk,” they wrote.

“An evaluation of the rules at the breakdown and an emphasis on proper tackling could aid injury prevention.”

The IRFU has previously insisted  that “high-quality coaching, officiating, medical support and appropriate player behaviour”  helps to reduce the risk of injury.

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