The push to increase physical activity in children has been lead by many national sporting bodies supporting school based sport development programmes. Rugby has been one of the most successful and encourages many young players to the sport. The Rugby Football Union's programme, which began in 2012 and is running until 2019, has so far reached 400 schools, with 350 to follow. This is fantastic for fitness, teamwork and social development, doctors have warned that the physical risks must be managed carefully.
Tag rugby has been popular with younger children, but many secondary school aged children play rugby league rules. Medics warn of the risks of injury but those in the sport feel that the benefits of playing outweigh the risks. They also comment that the element of risk is also an important part of playing a sport.
The sensible balance is to ensure that the benefits of any sport are still gained while the risks are managed. Some schools and groups have been fearful of facing claims for compensation from parents on behalf of children injured. This will only arise where proper safety measures have not been taken and the activities are poorly planned or supervised. By participating, any player accepts a degree of risk and this applies at ages six (albeit via their parents) or 46. Where there has been a negligent approach in running an activity, then those responsible will be liable for the injury suffered, which is appropriate. For this reason, those running activities should consider:
- is there is sufficient and suitable supervision (in terms of numbers and experience given the age of the players and the risk factor of that activity);
- giving a full explanation is given to players so risks such as low tackles and scrum posture is minimised;
- whether the players are appropriately grouped – size, skill etc.
Those treating the injuries are right to raise concerns, but a sensible dialogue and planning can minimise the risks of injury while allowing both the young and more experienced players to get the most out of playing (and enjoying) sports.