Brian O'Driscoll believes it's 'crazy' to force schoolchildren to play rugby
Ireland rugby legend Brian O'Driscoll believes the rule that makes rugby compulsory in some schools is 'crazy' and should be scrapped.
70 leading doctors and academics from the UK and the US wrote to health and child welfare officials here urging them to do ban tackling in youth rugby and Trinity College psychology professor Dr Sabina Brennan, who is director of the college's dementia research programme, said there was a growing body of scientific evidence that shows repeated head injuries and concussions sustained by children while playing contact sports like rugby can lead to life-long impairment of brain function and dementia in later life.
The open letter warns that children are suffering spinal and head injuries which can have life-long, or even fatal consequences.
The describe rugby as a "high-impact collision sport" and call for schools to move to touch or non-contact rugby for under 18s.
It said many secondary schools deliver contact rugby as a compulsory part of the physical education curriculum from age 11.
Speaking on Off The Ball on Newstalk, O'Driscoll strongly criticised the fact that rugby was compulsory for all students in some schools.
"It seems crazy that rugby is compulsory and part of a school's curriculum. I don't care how steeped in history your school is," he said.
"To force a child to go out onto a rugby pitch against their will because 'that's what we do here' seems incredible.
"If for no other reason, this letter heightens the ridiculousness of that, that would be one win."
On the rest of the letter, he added: "Some of the rest of it, there is a lot of conjecture involved in it. I don't see a huge amount of comparisons to other sports so it seems fairly thinly veiled other than pointing out this aspect of compulsory rugby as compulsory fun. That seems crazy.
"When 70 doctors get together people sit up and listen, I'm from a family of two doctors so their word was gospel when it came to anything medical.
"I just feel that it feels like a shot in the dark, there are no comparatives to other sports. Certain aspects of it are taken out of context, we don't know the real detail of the study of the types of injuries.
"All this 'big hit' conversation... one study showed that less than 50pc of injuries or concussions come from below hip level tackling. Choke tackling and big collisions, and we've seen it with Johnny Sexton, maybe isn't the reality we think it is."