Rugby injury concerns urgently need addressed
While I do not necessarily agree with my friend John Beattie, the former Scottish rugby international and British Lion, that players of my generation and before are at an increased risk of dementia because of head injuries received during our playing years (and I state this mainly because I do not see any significant evidence of it), I would share his concern about the current group of players because I feel that the game has become too physical and brutal.
I carried out some basic research of my own in regard to concussions and among nine of my contemporaries, with more than 90 years of rugby experience between us, we had a total of nine concussions.
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.
There is also an initial research paper on injuries at schools level rugby by Ulster University, which raises some concerns.
I think there are serious issues that need to be addressed in the way the game is being played and coached and 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.
In addition, there has to be a clearer separation of the game played at schools and amateur level and the professional game, where players are obviously much better prepared physically.
These concerns need 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 of rugby 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.
Holywood, Co Down