Should Tackling in Children's Rugby Be Banned?

There is a huge debate raging about the dangers of children playing rugby. Doctors are calling for a ban on tackling in children's rugby. As a mother of sporty boys, this puts me right in the thick of it



Radio 4 debate

We didn't have a great start to the day this week. The radio was on during breakfast. The Today team were interviewing Professor Allyson Pollock about a letter that had been sent to government ministers, calling for a ban on tackling in children's rugby.

Had she been present in our house, she would have been ripped to shreds. Which wouldn't have helped to persuade her that not all rugby players are aggressive and brutal.

My husband was the most vocal. Most of what he said I can't repeat, but it was along the lines of "That's typical of a woman who doesn't understand the game of rugby." I smiled sweetly whilst in my head flipping him the bird.

My two boys were equally incensed but not in the same way. "You can't play rugby without tackling," said one, "I love tackling. And when I tackle, someone will get hurt and I make very sure it's not me." The other said "Why are we listening to Radio 4? I want Grimmy. And pancakes."

To be fair they all had some valid arguments (apart from the one about Grimmy as I don't do Radio 1 in the morning).

Is it health and safety gone mad again?

Should we once again be wrapping up our children in cotton wool? We already live in a fairly sterilised world, where schools remove climbing frames to avoid injuries and lawsuits, and families keep children in doors rather than let them roam free to explore the world outside.

As a mother, on the other hand, I completely understand where these medical experts are coming from. I live in dread of something happening to my boys on the rugby pitch.

Both of my nephews have suffered from stress fractures to their spines as a result of rugby. They have recovered, but what if they hadn't, or if their injuries had been worse? My sister tells me not a match goes by without one of the teammates being carted off to hospital.

I am convinced that injuries are more prevalent, whether it's due to better medical diagnosis, or because boys seem to be stronger and bigger than they were when we were at school. When my brother played rugby, he was more flab than fab. He'd bulldoze his way through the opposition, who tended to rebound off his enormous stomach rather than get flattened by any bone crunching tackles.

The benefits of rugby

My boys absolutely love rugby. And to be honest, I'd rather they were out there playing sport, any sport, than sitting inside on their iPads. Rugby can teach discipline, team building, and above all fitness. In that way, it can be seen to be avoiding obesity which arguably is going to be a bigger killer of children in the future than sporting injuries.

On the day that the report came out, our eldest played for the U13 and the U12 in back to back rugby matches for the Sussex Cup. Both teams were crowned champions. It was an incredible moment. There were injuries but the boys accept these as part of the game. Medical staff were on hand the whole time, and the coaches never took any chances when a player got knocked on the head.

If rugby is coached well and played right, then it can be an incredible sport to be involved in. So I'm afraid I'm not about to stop them playing, even if I could. 

Amanda Coxen, Working Mum and Tinies Director

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