Poll: Should we ban tackling in youth rugby for a non-contact form of the game?
Dozens of doctors and health experts have written to the British Government calling for a ban on tackling in school rugby games to avoid needless injuries.
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.
The letter, which is signed by sport scholars, academics, doctors, and public health professionals, said studies show that the risks of injuries for those aged under 18 "are high and injuries are often serious".
It said many secondary schools in the UK deliver contact rugby as a compulsory part of the physical education curriculum from age 11.
"The majority of all injuries occur during contact or collision, such as the tackle and the scrum," the letter said.
"These injuries which include fractures, ligamentous tears, dislocated shoulders, spinal injuries and head injuries can have short-term, life-long, and life-ending consequences for children."
The letter said concussion is a common injury and repeat concussion is most likely among players who have suffered it previously.
"A link has been found between repeat concussions and cognitive impairment and an association with depression, memory loss and diminished verbal abilities, as well as longer term problems," the letter said.
"Children take longer to recover to normal levels on measures of memory, reaction speed and post-concussive symptoms than adults."
The experts said injuries from rugby can also "result in significant time loss from school".
They criticised the British Government's drive to boost participation in rugby in English schools by linking schools with rugby clubs.
They said that under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, governments have a duty to inform children about risks of injury.
Signatory Professor Allyson Pollock from Queen Mary University of London, who has campaigned about the dangers of rugby said: "Parents expect the state to look after their children when they are at school.
“Rugby is a high-impact collision sport and given that children are more susceptible to injuries such as concussion, the absence of injury surveillance systems and primary prevention strategies is worrying.
"Children are being left exposed to serious and catastrophic risk of injury.
"As a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the UK and Irish governments should ensure the safety of rugby, by removing the contact from the children's game in schools."
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