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Editorial: Dilemma weighs on management of junior rugby (May 12, 2018)
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m***@gmail.com
2018-05-12 05:25:28 UTC
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Editorial: Dilemma weighs on management of junior rugby

EDITORIAL: Many thousands of parents will know that stab of fear, even if some of them might be loath to share it: standing opposite their child on the rugby field is a potential human wrecking ball, another child who barely fits that description, let alone the uniform he's given.

Those fears are well-founded, based on facts: ACC figures show that, in 2016, 62,336 players were injured; of those, 19,518 were aged 15-19 and 12,846 were under 10.

Those figures and the faces of resulting disability and, yes, even death, have brought pleas from experts around the country and the world to stop children playing rugby until they are much older, or at least change the game so much as to render it potentially unrecognisable.

Rugby is under threat.

READ MORE:
* Ban tackles and scrums from school rugby: British academics
* Opinion: Our young are dying from and rugby still looks away
* The safety of scrums, front-on defence, and your child
* NZ rugby concussion study sparks global research
* Is schoolboy rugby now too much of a risk?
* Concussion's hidden toll


It has responded with various rules to keep kids playing the game, and safe, including removing the tackle for the youngest children and the onslaught of rampaging bigger kids as they ease their way into our national sport.

Weight limits for youth grades are now standard. They are a commonsense measure to level the playing field for those kids whose talent might not be matched by the incredible physical prowess of their opposites. They allow the player to develop those skills while the rest of the body catches up, and the parents to feel comfortable that the safety of the child they are handing over is being managed appropriately.

Wairarapa Bush has such weight limits in place for its youngest players, but it had proposed to go a little further. Possibly too far.

Players who are at least 10kg heavier than their peers have to be registered as over the weight limit to gain dispensation to play in their age-group. That must be recorded in the team sheet. Under proposals put forward and reversed soon after, they were also faced with wearing an armband (previously it was neon yellow socks).

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Also, there are various restrictions on what the child can do; they can play in the scrum, but not the front row, cannot take the ball off the back as a No 8, and are not allowed to be used as a "battering ram". There are others.

The parent of an 87kg 12-year-old given dispensation to play the under-13 grade under these rules believed the armband plan was discrimination.

The Human Rights Commission certainly didn't agree. Under the Human Rights Act 1993, weight is not included as a prohibited ground for discrimination.

But we have a great deal of sympathy for both sides of this particular dilemma.

The Wairarapa Bush Rugby Union is right to do all it can to ensure all of its players are kept as safe as possible and risks mitigated.

But the armband proposal was potentially demeaning, and very possibly counterproductive. It could have sent the wrong message to those children keen to get off the couch and play sport in the pursuit of a healthier lifestyle.

That would make it even harder to reverse this country's woeful statistics around obesity and illness.

Ultimately, common sense must prevail to not single out these kids but also to protect their smaller playing partners.

- Dominion Post

Comments
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1 hour ago
WestyG
My son was dispensated last season due to having been concussed the year before
This season even though he meets the weight requirements they won't dispensate him again, doesn't want to play against kids that are up to 30kg heavy than him so is playing basketball!
Good on you Marlborough Rugby
0

1 hour ago
Nakibart
my son is by birth U12 in the WRFU rules, however, at 57kg, he has to play U13 grade, he's happy to, I'm a little unsure. In the local Welly comp I'm aware of a 12yr old weighing in at 110kg and a lot over 80kg! Ithink the problem lies with the 55kg cut off for U12, we have app 31 in our squad and a team we played on Friday also had huge numbers.... So, my son who is just over the limit plays against much mch bigger kids, most of them make me look diminutive, yet next year at college he'll be back to weight grading......if the numbers exist for a graded U13 form then this would solve the issues also.
0

2 hours ago
cathys1
My son who is now 43 was not allowed to play school rugby from his first year at intermediate because he was taller than the other boys, not overweight just tall and skinny, so to some degree this discrimination has been happening for years. My son would have been no threat to the shorter boys as he is not an aggressive person, he would have been happy to kick the ball around and run to score a goal but unlikely to tackle anyone. It was quite embarrassing for him to be singled out and made to sit on the sidelines while his classmates played rugby. I can understand the problems that could arise with a big kid tackling a small kid but shaming those children has the potential to cause self image harm.
-1

2 hours ago
WayneC
The child in question was only but weighed 87 kgs , more than I do as an adult ( and my BMI says I’m overweight). Safety is important and in this day of everyone wanting “justice” I can imagine what would happen if this boy runs over another and seriously injures him
+1

3 hours ago
Cmon Sense
So all the injuries that take place in rugby happen because of a mismatch in size?
-1

4 hours ago
OClay
It makes perfect sense until their older. I spent my entire career giving away 30, 40 sometimes 60kg as a 65 kg forward..... suffered constant concussions and shoulder injuries from 16 to 18 until I learnt to dominate the moment of impact and my man strength was enough to overcome the weight difference. It takes time and experience not matter how tough you are.

Teach your kids if they're small that you will ALWAYS win the impact if you control the moment when it occurs and regardless of size or speed. If they're lining you up either let them come and roll with it or preferably close the gap at the last moment before they're braced and snot them. The other trick in rugby (doesn't work in League) is to hit the ball instead of the player.... every single player in the world will immediately stop in their tracks once they realise your not tackling them, your just taking the ball off them.

Once I learnt those 3 things I became the best tackler in every team I ever played in and I can count on one hand the amount of times I got run over or bumped off in the last 10 years I played
+2

4 hours ago
Uosdwis R. Dewoh
Maybe they should also be barred from buying fast foods. It the parents fault they fat
+3

4 hours ago
thefarside
Wellington seems to have it right.
Age grades with weight restrictions. Too big and you go up a grade (a maximum of one grade up). Then it tends to even out. The biggest kid in my U9 team is 7 and playing up. He is slower and less coordinated than my 8 year olds thus easier to bring down despite his size. But at the same time gaining confidence and skills with being at that next step up (extra encouragement given).
+5

5 hours ago
Forwardpass
Most people understand the risks of playing rugby, including parents, but it seems like a good idea to mitigate and reduce the risks where possible. That's why we have seat belts in cars and helmets on motorcyclists. Weight limits in age grade rugby seems a no brainer.
I was a skinny kid who played in age grade rugby in the Wairarapa and hated it a lot of the time. I almost left rugby because of it but persevered and when I filled out I loved playing rugby until I was 39.
How many kids don't keep on with the game and lose all of those benefits we have within the community that is a rugby club?
+3

5 hours ago
MFNz
The PC element of this is the reaction to the words over and weight together. By asking kids that are over a certain weight level to not use that weight to their advantage because it might also injure others surely teaches them to engage in learning more skills I.e makes them better players in the long run. You are not going to get too far in club rugby, if that’s your aim, if your only skill is bulldozing other players because of your weight. This is a smart move if embraced by clubs and parents.
+1

6 hours ago
Saberdriggle
It's a bigger issue than just weight. It's also speed of development. The early developers get streamed through the system to top school level and onwards. In the end we will have just the big kids playing each other which will be reflected at top level. Everyone else will drift off to other sports. So sports like football will thrive and grow while the erosion at the base of rugby will literally implode the entire sport.
+1

7 hours ago
Docmum
This is why my 46kg 12yr old and his friends are thrilled to be able to play in College Sports this year, in the U55 weight grade. As a 9 year old who broke his collarbone after being tackled by three opposition players who were twice his size he has learnt the hard way that playing against kids who are the same age, but twice the size, makes the game "not so much fun".
0

7 hours ago
Dan M
In the other story there were quite a few comments along the lines of "it toughens them up" or "we've got one small kid who can tackle anyone". On the first point, congratulations, your adult bravado is setting your child up for dementia later in life. On the second point, sure there might be a prodigy or two in every team who can cope with it. But that leaves 13 or 14 kids (more if you count subs) who don't have the early talent and co-ordination to safely handle the impacts and collisions.

This is not about how manly you are or were. This is about your child's long term health. Yes you did it, yes you survived. You probably lived in a house with lead paint and an asbestos roof too. Just because you did that, should your child do it too?
+3

8 hours ago
swivel
I seriously don't think the kids care so parents should drop it,

These kids especially need to face the facts about their size and it might help them with it later on. Just be honest with them, kid you're a danger out there on the field but because rugby is the best activity one could hope to do if you just wear this band and don't try to bulldoze anybody you can play alright.

There that doesn't sound too bad.
-2

8 hours ago
Tom Hawkins
There are other sports...
+5

9 hours ago
HandUp
Here's where I am: having played and watched a lot of junior rugby I've seen plenty of broken bones. But those pale in significance to benefits of comaradery and joy the young boys and girls have gained. Social media is fueling an environment where people fixate on risks and forget the benefits. Its a slippery slope. We should stay strong and resist the efforts of the do gooders to sanitise the game.
1 reply-2

4 hours ago
Dan M
If it was just broken bones it wouldn't be so bad, but it's the concussions that are the main problem, and we're only just learning how bad it is and how bad it can be later in life. Kids break bones and the bones heal. Kids get concussion and it increases their risk of contracting dementia later on. Look it up, numerous studies are starting to be completed and they're all saying the same thing.
0

9 hours ago
Kiwirambled
After coaching at intermediate and high school in a number of sports, we need to be always mindful that kids mature and grow at different rates. That great prop may be that scrawny kid. That tall kid, which was me, might not grow much more and will never be your club lock. What I do know is that evenly matched regular competition develops the best players. A player who matured earlier may not develop the right skills if all they do is overpower with size.

This is just not a rugby issue. Imagine the gangly uncoordinated kid who has trouble bowling, they may develop into your fearsome tall pace bowler as they grow into their bodies and develop the necessary coordination. There will be many other examples in other sports.

Good closely matched games are best for our kids, they should learn to both win and lose well, overcome adversity, dig in when the chips are down, and have fun wanting more next week. That’s a recipe for developing not just sport but better people. Lets face it most kids are not going to be professional sportspersons, it’s a narrow window so lets develop better people. And please don’t confuse this with not wanting to win, life has winners and losers, we should not develop snow flakes either.
+15

9 hours ago
BLUENOSE
19,518 were aged 15-19 and 12,846 were under 10. sums it up really... any changes that can reduce figures like these can only be a good thing....
+1

9 hours ago
Searching
It's a tough sport and even using the best technique can sometimes be undone a split second can go from making a good tackle to getting knocked out. Our team played last week and a young boy from the opposition side copped a knee to the head and he was out cold! It was terrible and to see the devastation and concern from the parents was hard.
It's automatically 3.5 weeks stand-down and then a required doctors clearance after that, but seriously having first hand experience with a severe brain injury, I have to question if it's really worth it to continue?.
Some of the kids I coached last year in the U13 grade were pushing 90 - 100kgs and likewise with our opposition. We also had kids that were 40 - 50kgs and I'll be honest I sometimes worried about them making tackles, it just seemed unfair for those kids to try and take down someone twice their size.
Parents are flocking to other sports like basketball & of course football because it's not worth their child getting trampled by some well developed 13 year old - and there are plenty out there.
It;s a huge problem and no straight up answer, they tried to split the grade and make a weighted U13 division, but then there were not enough to make up teams. I feel for the Union, what to do?
1 reply+7

6 hours ago
Klonk
'...they tried to split the grade and make a weighted U13 division, but then there were not enough to make up teams...' There will be no change until there is a major shift at NZRFU, and they explicitly come out and mandate a move to a weight based competition. By continuing with this bizarre muddle of mismatched weight / age protocol, they are demonstrating to the parents of potential young players, that they are living in another time. Parents are voting with their brains and their common sense. I don't know whats happening in Auckland now, but officials branded everyone concerned about this a sissys until Grand Fox stepped up and challenged the situation.
+2

9 hours ago
Klonk
We got out of rugby in Auckland in late nineties for exact situation. Additional to the refusal to make the competition weight based, there was distinct element of gratuitous violence, crudely disguised as 'hard play'which encouraged from the sideline and tolerated by refs and some club management.
+12

10 hours ago
R Drew
They were not saying the kid was fat, just that he was very big for his age, at 87 kg he is bigger that many super rugby players, is it reasonable for a person that size to be in a team of U13s without some controls.
+8

10 hours ago
et al
What a load of pc bollocks. All the kids understand it’s good for some kids to get dispensation, but the worst injuries come from the size mismatch. Putting rules in to protect the smaller kids from those who receive dispensation is a good thing.
1 reply+6

2 hours ago
Kiwirambled
Do the worst injuries come from size mismatch, I’m a fan of some weight control but I have not seen any evidence to support your assumption. Happy to be corrected if there is any.
0

10 hours ago
justme16
sports injuries should not be covered by acc plain and simple. cyclists rugby netball etc they should all pay a levy each year to get cover to reflect that sports acc claims.
4 replies+3

8 hours ago
Klonk
Yes I think you are correct. ACC is the ultimate nanny state apparatus. It legitmises a casual attitude to personal responsibility and enshrines questionable activities as normal. The only problem for us is that with a three year electoral cycle, it would take well in excess of a decade to make meaningful change.
+2

7 hours ago
Dan M
Rugby players do pay ACC levies. It's part of the club subscription fees.
+4

6 hours ago
Bobby1
The cost of ACC is much better than the cost of couch potatoe kids that grow up fat and lazy.
+2

6 hours ago
Paul-
I see your point, but also consider the alternatives, which require all sports participants pay added cost to play or be involved, and many just won't, will become unfit and unhealthy instead. Long term they become a drain on not the ACC system, but the health system instead through obesity and sedentary lifestyle related diseases.
+1

10 hours ago
rugby7
Years ago they had a weight group instead of age group teams.Go back to that system.Better all round for the kids and worried mums
3 replies+12

6 hours ago
Rhinorod
totally agree. when i started playing as a youngster it was weight range. Age range came in at under 16 if i recall
1 reply+1

2 hours ago
Kiwirambled
Yes and I always played against older kids, not because I was fat just matured earlier. It never occurred to me that it could be unfair, it made me a better player and I played in most rep teams but I can see how it might not work for some kids. Being fat would be a disadvantage. I’m not sure that a kid who is fat has much of an advantage on the rugby field.
0

2 hours ago
Kiwirambled
I like the system where weight can put you up one age grade. It’s simple and system which combines both.
m***@gmail.com
2018-05-12 05:28:50 UTC
Permalink
Mark Reason: Our young are dying from brain injuries and rugby still looks away
Sonny Bill Williams goes down injured during the Sydney test against the Wallabies.
PAUL SEISER/PHOTOSPORT
Sonny Bill Williams goes down injured during the Sydney test against the Wallabies.

OPINION: Rowan Stringer was killed playing rugby. She was 17 years old. She died in the Ottawa hospital where she was about to start her training as a nurse. This is the text message Rowan sent the day before she suffered the head injury which ended her life.

"I might have gotten a concussion … have a headache again," Rowan wrote to her friend Michelle Hebert.

"How was your game?" asked Michelle.

Sam Cane is assisted from the field of play during the second Bledisloe test in Dunedin.
JOE ALLISON/PHOTOSPORT
Sam Cane is assisted from the field of play during the second Bledisloe test in Dunedin.

"Well I smashed it on the ground and then got kicked in the head."

READ MORE:
* SBW bats away concussion question
* Is Read the world's best player?
* Beale: Bledisloe pain will make us better


Ryan Crotty takes a knee during the test against the Wallabies in Dunedin.
ANDREW CORNAGA/PHOTOSPORT
Ryan Crotty takes a knee during the test against the Wallabies in Dunedin.

"Doesn't that happen every time?"

"Which is why I probably have a concussion."

"Ya well. You need to stop dying. Are you still going to play on Wednesday?"

"Yeah. Nothing can stop meeee! Unless I'm dead."

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"I'm sure you'll be fine by then.".

"Unless concussion!"

"Are you going to get it checked?"

"Nope. Just see if it gets worse."

"Maybe you should see a doctor."

"Meh, what's some brain damage gonna hurt?"

We now know the tragic answer to that question. Rowan's parents ordered an autopsy because they wanted to know. Because they didn't want others to die the same way. The results confirmed what they feared. Rowan died from second impact symptom. Most of her organs were young and vibrant. They were donated to save other people's lives. But the damage to Rowan's brain killed her.

Kathleen Stringer, the mother of Rowan, vowed at the inquest that the family's goal was that the same thing should never happen again to another child. But it is happening again. Year after year.

Since Rowan's death in 2013 there have been at least 11 more deaths, almost certainly more, from head impacts playing rugby. Three are women, two are children. The average age of the victims is 21. The youngest was 14. Four of them are New Zealanders.

These are not deaths from playing rugby alone. These are specific deaths from head impacts suffered while playing rugby. In just the previous 12 months there have been four deaths. And rugby means rugby, not union or league. When it comes to people dying it is long time when the two codes need to start acting in harmony.

It is also time that the top of our national game started setting a way better example than it is currently doing. In the last two test matches played by the All Blacks two of its players have been put at risk from second impact syndrome because they have not been removed immediately and permanently from the field of play.

Ryan Crotty was playing in the second test against Australia. In the 27th minute Crotty's head was struck by Tevita Kuridrani's leg in a tackle. When Crotty tried to get to his feet he reeled sideways. He staggered like a drunken crab. At this point World Rugby's protocols demand that Crotty be removed permanently from the game.

Crotty was left to play on for just under a minute. His next act was to give away a penalty for an early tackle. He was then removed for an HIA. Predictably, because it is long established that the HIA is an unreliable tool, Crotty returned to the game.

In the 63rd minute Crotty was hit by Israel Folau's hip in the head. He takes a while to get to his feet and visibly does not look well. A medic comes on. Unbelievably Crotty was allowed to continue for a further four and half minutes before he is eventually removed. He has effectively been exposed to the risk of third impact syndrome.

There is an irony about Crotty's replacement. The week before Sonny Bill Williams was clearly concussed in the second minute. After a tackle SBW tried to get up, used his arms for support, crabbed sideways and fell back. He again plays on. He receives other blows to the head. SBW is again at risk of second impact syndrome.

There is a pattern. Sam Cane, again concussed in the second test against Australia, was left on the pitch following a break in play. He defended poorly at the subsequent lineout and was finally removed.

Many medical observers believe that Kieran Read was concussed in the final test against the Lions. In fact I cannot remember the last time a test match was played without an All Black being concussed. Cane, Crotty, SBW and Crockett were concussed in the two match series against Australia. Read, Waisake Naholo and Ben Smith were concussed against the Lions. There were almost certainly others.

This year alone, Beauden Barrett, Dane Coles, Cane, Crockett, Crotty, Naholo, Charlie Ngatai, Naholo, Brodie Retallick and Ben Smith have all suffered severe concussion symptoms. In the past both Read and Liam Squire have had long periods out of the game because of concussion.

Ataxia is the medical name for the loss of full control of body movement. In consecutive matches SBW and Crotty suffered ataxia and were not removed from the game. Don't expect SANZAAR or World Rugby to take any action because they never do. They didn't after SBW. They won't after Crotty.

Rugby's authorities continue to allow teams like the All Blacks and the Lions to set an appalling example to the rest of the game. And each year another couple of invincible young people die. It is now five years since the death of Rowan Stringer. But as I write this column it is just five days since the death of a young mother. When will the tragedy end?

RIP

August 2017: NZ, League, Name Withheld, Female, 23

July 2017: UK, League, Evan Hawksworth, Male, 14

May 2017: NZ, Union, Daniel Baldwin, Male, 19

September 2016: Aus, League, Grant Cook, Male, 28

July 2016: SA, Union, Jean-Jireh Yamwimbi, Male, 16

June 2016: UK, League, Ronan Costello, Male, 17

December 2015: UK, Union, Lily Partridge, Female, 22

April 2015: Aus, Union, Nicholas Tooth, Male, 25

October 2014: UK, Union, Sarah Chesters, Female, 23

July 2014: NZ, Union, Jordan Kemp, Male, 17

July 2013: Uganda, Union, Yusuf Zaidi, Male, 22

July 2013: NZ, Union, Viliami Halaifonua, Male, 27

May 2013: Canada, Union, Rowan Stringer, Female, 17

- Sunday Star Times

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