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Rugby Deaths and Head Injuries

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One of the reasons many people are attracted to the game of rugby is because of its physicality. With that, obviously comes inherent dangers.

Unfortunately, these dangers can lead to more than just a broken bone or black eye. In late June of 2015, Aaron Kohring died from playing rugby in Fairbanks, Alaska.

This is no isolated incident either. In June of 2015, James Ackerman died after sustaining a blow to the head playing for the Australian Rugby League.

The rise of rugby related head injuries have been on the rise in the past few years according to a number of sources. Referenced from the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, 5,794 head injuries were grouped together with Lacrosse in the U.S. to bring rugby to the 17th spot of most reported injuries in 2009.

In 2011, it was reported that 110 players were paralyzed during the course of the game in the United Kingdom alone. one of which was Daniel James, who suffered a heart wrenching injury after a scrum collapsed on his head and paralyzed him, he took his own life for not being able to cope with his loss.

In 2010, Allyson Pollock actually called for all scrums to be banned in her country after discovering that 37 injuries occurred over a duration of just 190 rugby matches at select Scottish schools.

The UK’s Telegraph reported in 2011 that rugby union play in schools had an injury rate three times that of Soccer. David Allen, Director of Queen Elizabeth National Spinal Injuries Unit in Glasgow, went on record stating  “We used to get one case every three years but that has risen to three a year since 2006” as reported in the same article.

And with all of this information it would be very easy to conclude that rugby is a very dangerous sport. However, incomplete information always leads to incomplete answers.

The same report that said 5,794 head injuries in the U.S. came from rugby play, also stated that Horseback riding was ranked Number 1 in hospital admissions. It was even noted that every year, more than 500,000 people visit emergency rooms in the United States due to Bicycle related injuries.

Sure, rugby has inherent dangers as stated before. But relative to other sports I’d say it is fairly safe.

Furthermore, more awareness has blown up the number of head injuries across all sports. It is not just rugby that is reporting high numbers of these same kind of accidents.

And with rugby as the fastest growing sport in America, it is likely more attention will be given to the subject as more and more incidents occur like the one in Fairbanks, Alaska this past month.

The best plan of action to take is education and proper enforcement of certain rules. President Obama made a fairly good point in light of this subject a few years ago when he said “I tend to be more worried about college players than NFL players in the sense that the NFL players have a union, they’re grown men, they can make some of these decisions on their own, and most of them are well-compensated for the violence they do to their bodies.”

Maybe we should look into at least modifying the scrum for children under 18 who play rugby in the U.S.

Maybe we should also budget for the proper technicians to be at every sporting event in case events like this do happen, so that they can be recognized and treated.

However we go about the problem, the first step is to actually have a dialogue about it. Without people talking about the subject, nothing can happen.

With that said, sports are a vital part of growing up. To become overprotective as  society will do us more harm than good as it strips away important aspects of life. Maybe this article is just here to bring awareness to an issue that is largely ignored. Reacting to every bad thing that happens in this country is one of the reasons why we find ourselves quarreling amongst each other so much. For now, we should celebrate that we are still living, fighting, and playing rugby on Saturday morning.


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