Brutal nature of game putting future at risk, says Ringland
Former Ireland international Trevor Ringland has said a failure to tackle the problem of concussion in school and amateur rugby will put "the entire game at risk".
The former British and Irish Lion said the modern game "has become too physical and brutal" and revealed that he had suffered two concussions inside a week while playing for his school, Larne Grammar.
"I carried out some basic research of my own in regard to concussions and among nine of my contemporaries, with over 90 years of rugby experience between us, we had a total of nine concussions," the former winger said.
"I contributed two of that number, both occurring within a week of each other while I was playing at school. One of the other players, recognised as one of the greatest players of all time, had none."
Mr Ringland, who also lined out for Ulster, added there were serious issues that need to be addressed in the way the game is being played and coached in schools, as well as "the reckless attitude of some players in how they approach their own safety and that of their fellow players".
"A major discussion needs to be undertaken to address some of the issues, which I think can be done, to try and reduce the risk of too many physical injuries, whether those be fractures or concussions," he said. "In addition, there has to be a clearer separation of the game played at school and amateur level and the professional game - where players are obviously much better prepared physically.
"These concerns need to be urgently addressed and failure to do so will be placing the entire game at risk in the future.
"Rugby is a physical game and there are so many benefits that flow out of it for those that participate in it.
"Those involved love the game and care about those who play it and I do believe with proper consideration and appropriate changes any risk can be reduced to acceptable levels." Mr Ringland said that he hadn't seen any significant evidence of players of his generation being at increased risk of dementia due to head injuries.
However, he said he did have concerns about current players "because I feel that the game has become too physical and brutal".
Letters, Page 28