Safety tests call for young rugby players

Studies have found that young rugby players can be vulnerable to serious injury in scrum situations. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Studies have found that young rugby players can be vulnerable to serious injury in scrum situations. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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YOUNG rugby players should be tested to ensure they are strong enough to take part in scrums, new research suggests.

Findings by scientists at Edinburgh University show younger participants often lack the neck strength of seniors and are at higher risk of getting hurt.

They have advised that youth players undergo tests to demonstrate they possess the necessary strength before being approved to play adult rugby.

A number of youngsters in Edinburgh have been injured during rugby scrums in recent years.

In 2008, a 17-year-old pupil from Merchiston Castle, one of the Capital’s private schools, suffered a spinal injury when a scrum collapsed during a match against Stewart’s Melville College.

The call for tests comes after researchers examined the physical strength of adults from amateur leagues and under-18 front row counterparts.

They found the youths’ lesser strength and fatigue endurance put them at a “significant disadvantage”.

Dr David Hamilton, a researcher in the department of trauma and orthopaedics, said: “In the test group of high performance under-18 group players, only two out of 30 players recorded the average neck strength of the adult group.”

Professor of orthopaedic surgery Hamish Simpson added: “Our results showed that although under-18 players were as strong as the adults in general, they were unable to generate the same neck muscle force as adult players.

“It is likely that weak necks are a risk factor for the scrum collapsing – an event associated with serious neck injury risk.”

The findings have been welcomed by Scottish Rugby, which assisted with the study.

Scrums are responsible for a significant proportion of spinal injuries, but the national rugby body has adopted new guidelines which have cut the rate.

Dr James Robson, Scottish Rugby’s chief medical officer and doctor on the past six British & Irish Lions tours, said: “This research is helping to underpin our safety policies. It validates our stance on where and when we allow under-18s to play in senior rugby.”