Surgeon warns of hidden dangers lurking in tag rugby
GROWING numbers of tag rugby players are underestimating hand injuries and risk losing the use of a finger, a leading surgeon has warned.
Some of the injuries suffered by players of the popular social and fun sport can be serious, said hand surgeon Colin Riordan of the Blackrock Clinic.
During the tag rugby season, he often treats players who have neglected a finger injury for weeks, forcing them to have surgery, which may leave them without full movement.
His warning comes in advance of next weekend's Pig and Porter Tag Rugby Festival in Limerick, the world's largest event in the growing sport's calendar.
Tag rugby is a non-contact team game in which each player wears a belt that has two velcro tags attached to it, or shorts with velcro patches.
Defenders pull one of the velcro-attached tags from the ball carrier, rather than make a full-contact tackle. This makes it a fun, social alternative to full-contact rugby.
But Mr Riordan said players do not realise how easy it is to catch a finger in another player's clothes, or to fall and cause damage.
"Most injuries are not serious but some can be quite severe and, unless treated appropriately and on time, the outcomes are significantly worse," he told the Irish Independent.
"A tendon injury can initially lead to loss of movement at the tip of the finger. If it is not treated early, it is a much more complex injury to repair.
"Surgery is needed to re-attach the tendon. If it not treated early enough, it may need a couple of stages to repair or tendon grafting."
Another injury involves fractures or dislocation of the finger. Most fractures can be treated without surgery and sorted out with a splint. A dislocated joint needs to be treated or it can have long-term consequences for the finger, such as arthritis.
"They can wait a number of weeks before seeking medical attention and at that stage it may be too late," added Mr Riordan.
The Blackrock Clinic sees around 100 tag rugby injuries over the course of the season and some can involve months of rehabilitation.