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Alter the laws of rugby for kids' game, says professor

By Eilish O'Regan

Published 04/04/2016

Tragedy: Ben Robinson
Tragedy: Ben Robinson

School rugby would be banned if it was a drug such is its rate of harm and injury, an expert has warned.

People don't understand the full range of horrendous injuries that occur, said Prof Allyson Pollock of the University of London.

One neurosurgeon has talked about picking out pieces of bone from people's brains, she added.

It's also not uncommon for children to lose their kidneys as well as have high concussion.

In 2011 Carrickfergus Grammar teenager Ben Robinson died from a brain injury after a school game.

Aged just 14, Ben was the first person in Northern Ireland to die from second impact syndrome, when a collision causes swelling to the brain before it has been given sufficient time to recover from a previous blow.

Ben collapsed near the end of his school's game with Dalriada having been momentarily knocked out at the start of the second half.

And in 2013 Moira man David Ross was playing for Wallace High in a third XV School's Cup tie against St Columb's College in Londonderry when the then 18-year-old sustained a dislocated neck in a collapsed ruck.

David was left paralysed from the chest down and will spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

The 21-year-old now plays wheelchair rugby.

In February researchers at Ulster University revealed results of a major study that for the first time ever is exploring the types and causes of injuries in schoolboy rugby across Northern Ireland.

Data collected over the 2014/15 season recorded 426 injuries of which 204 resulted in the player's absence from the sport for longer than 28 days, primarily due to fractures or sprains. The three most common injury sites were the head and face, shoulder, and knee.

Prof Pollock added: "Would you want your child to have a 36% rate of injury in a season?

"There has to be a radical change in the laws of the game for young people.

"I'd remove the governance where World Rugby controls the laws of the game."

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