- Will be effective because we know what we are targeting
- Will not cause unintended consequences by shifting risk from what we think is bad to good, when in fact we do the opposite (this is the danger in the 70 signatories’ proposal – they have no idea what they might achieve. At best, they’ll fail and nothing will change)
The risk of sustaining a head injury in a tackle is 1 in 514. Again – once every 514 tackles, a head injury occurs. Is that too high? Of course it is: We want it to be one in 700. 1 in 2,000! 1 in 5,000 even. But it’s a little different when you think of it in those terms, and the fact that on average, a player makes five tackles per match, it gives you a different perspective of the true risk.
In children, by the way, the ratio of non-injury causing tackles to injury tackles will be even greater – we know this because our initial evidence says that speed and acceleration are key predictors of injury, and these are much lower in children. So a child faces an injury risk of maybe 1 in 700, possibly even 1 in 6,000 (assuming that the risk here tracks the reduction in risk between adulthood and Under-13 proportionally).
Your next clue is that some tackle types are more risky than others. We know this from our extensive analysis (I’ll write on this in due course, not going to give it away here), and the point here is that if we can shift behaviour away from situations and types of tackles known to be riskier, then we reduce overall risk.
Can you see how this approach might be more effective, strategically and mechanistically, than going to the media and calling for a ban on the rugby tackle? If so, then you understand the issue taken with those 70 by so many people who are trying to argue from a position of calm logic, backed by data, rather than emotion.
[ribbon toplink=true]Risk comparison to other sports[/ribbon]
“We, 70 academics, have reviewed the data, and we believe that rugby must urgently address the risk particularly to children who often have no choice but to play the sport. Our data suggest that the greatest risk exists after adolescence, and so we want to propose the following nuanced solutions, and are prepared to work with other researchers and unions to establish whether this may help our children gain the benefits of the sport without the risk.
First, we want to analyse the tackles that children make. We want to know whether their technique matches the physical demands of the game, because the fact that the injury rate climbs at 16 suggests that physical intensity suddenly rises, which is obvious, but their technique may not be good enough.In that regard, we want to study two things. First, we must evaluate the level of technical coaching provided to children who are 16. Are they getting managed in parallel with the physical growth they are experiencing? If not, then we want to work out evidence based strategies to assist this. We want to understand whether limiting tackle exposure during practices, and changing the definition of a legal tackle might reduce the risk and contribute to players learning better techniques. We want to learn how players may be protected without compromising the integrity of the game.Second, we want to study how children engage with the tackle from their first exposure to the sport, until they are 16. We suspect that not enough emphasis is put on tackles. Therefore, we propose a change to the laws of rugby, which makes certain tackle types illegal at different ages.
We want to also look into strategies that keep smaller children, who are perhaps less biologically developed than their age-matched peers, in a group where their size does not count against them. We think this is vital not only for their welfare, but also for their enjoyment of the sport and for the performance of the country’s teams one day, because how many potential rugby players do we lose simply because they are physically outmatched when they are children?
We are prepared to work on researching these possible interventions, and then helping to track their effects on injury and the game. We realise that the research on the community game is thin, because it’s very, very difficult to do, but we are prepared to help, with the intention of reducing risk.
In return, we want our concerns to be taken very seriously, and we want open and frank discussions. We want to talk about compulsory rugby, and strategies to grow the game, because we recognise that the sport offers many benefits, but some of these may be lost for certain people”
- Instead of stirring up mass hysteria by basing extreme proposals on cherry-picked partial data that is heavily criticised by other academics, why not channel your noble incentives into stirring up a passion to address the root causes of the problem – policies, application of rugby and who knows, better education for parents, teachers and coaches about tackle technique and other ways to make the existing sport safer?
- Instead of offering absolutely ludicrous comparisons like that offered on a radio debate yesterday when one of the 70 said that if you allow your child to play rugby you may as well throw them under a bus traveling 30 km/h (you should be ashamed of this stupid analogy, sir), why don’t you instead direct that passion towards understand what kinds of solutions would actually have the best LONG-TERM outcomes for children, who are going to go on to become adults?
- Rather than offering what is clearly not going to be embraced as a solution, why not get onto the full picture of data, take the emotion and your personal agendas out of it (you know exactly who you are and what I mean), and I guarantee you, you will find a bunch of very dedicated people who are doing pretty much the same thing you are, with the same intention.