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Doctors urge schools to ban tackling in rugby

More than 70 doctors and academics are calling for a ban on tackling in rugby matches played in UK and Irish schools.  In an open letter to ministers, they say injuries from this “high-impact collision sport” can have lifelong consequences for children.  They argue two thirds of injuries in youth rugby and most concussions are down to tackles and urge schools to move to touch and non-contact rugby.  Supporters say rugby builds character and other forms are less challenging.  The concerns have been raised as a seven-year programme headed by the Rugby Football Union is on target to introduce rugby to a million children in state schools across England.  The RFU’s programme, which began in 2012 and is running until 2019, has so far reached 400 schools, with 350 to follow.

‘Fractures and dislocations’

But, in their letter to ministers, chief medical officers and children’s commissioners in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, doctors say the risks for players aged under 18 are high.  They say many secondary schools in the UK deliver contact rugby as a compulsory part of the physical education curriculum from the age of 11.  “The majority of all injuries occur during contact or collision, such as the tackle and the scrum,” the letter says.

“These injuries, which include fractures, ligamentous tears, dislocated shoulders, spinal injuries and head injuries can have short-term, lifelong and life-ending consequences for children.”  The doctors say concussion is a common injury, and they highlight a link between “repeat concussions and cognitive impairment and an association with depression, memory loss and diminished verbal abilities”.  One of the signatories of the open letter is Prof Allyson Pollock, from Queen Mary University of London, who has long campaigned about the dangers of rugby.

She said evidence collected over 12 years showed rugby players up to the age of 18 or 19 had a 28% chance of getting injured over a season of 15 matches.  “If you’re thinking of a million children playing every year with this risk of injury you’re looking at 300,000 extra injuries a year, including up to 100,000 concussions,” she said.  She added that 90% of injuries resulted in more than seven days lost from school.  There are various forms of touch or tag rugby, in which tackles are replaced by touching a player or removing a tag from their clothing. Aspects of rugby such as scrums and rucks are also excluded from these forms of the game.

Jonny Cross, a PE teacher at Congleton High School in Cheshire – where rugby is compulsory from the age of 11 – says the sport provides a challenge.  Mr Cross says children wear gum-shields and are taught how to maintain the proper posture in scrums to avoid injury, a technique known as “tower of power”.  “Contact rugby helps build character. They are putting their body on the line in a match. The risk factor is part of it,” he says.  “They enjoy the contact element. There is a ‘boy factor’ – it’s partly about developing masculinity. They would be more likely to be bored by touch rugby.  “I would say that some students need it. It provides a challenge, where challenge is being taken out of everyday life.”  Mr Cross says children wear gum-shields and are taught how to maintain the proper posture in scrums to avoid injury, a technique known as “tower of power”.  “Contact rugby helps build character. They are putting their body on the line in a match. The risk factor is part of it,” he says.  “They enjoy the contact element. There is a ‘boy factor’ – it’s partly about developing masculinity. They would be more likely to be bored by touch rugby.  “I would say that some students need it. It provides a challenge, where challenge is being taken out of everyday life.”  The RFU and the Welsh Rugby Union both said they took player safety “extremely seriously” but that rugby was a “fantastic sport for children” which offered many benefits for society.

The Scottish Rugby Union said it was “committed to player welfare at every level of the game” but pointed out that every sport carried “an element of risk”.

Southern hemisphere

South African schools allow tackling, as do schools in Australia – although there has been a recent push to make children wear protective headgear, but this is not compulsory.  In New Zealand, tackling is permitted, but in some schools it is banned in lunchtime games that are not being supervised.  Former England rugby player Matt Perry said: “I took a risk when I started rugby at seven and I’m afraid at school level if that tackle is taken out we’ve lost one of the great games and one of the great cultural games.”  Former England international Brian Moore dismissed the evidence in the letter as “flawed” and “partial”.  Obesity would kill more children than rugby, he said.  “If you want to ban things, you’ve got to do it on the right basis.”

The Association for Physical Education said contact versions of the game should be introduced and managed only by “suitably experienced staff” following recognised guidelines.  “Parents should be aware of what sports are taught in the schools they choose to send their children to – if rugby is taught, then parents send their children to the school in the knowledge that they are likely to be asked to play rugby at some level,” it added.

A spokesman for the Department for Education in England said: “Team sports, such as rugby, play an important role in developing character.  “We expect schools to be aware of the risks associated with sporting activities and to provide a safe environment for pupils.”

2.3.2016 BBC News

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Chelsea's French defender Kurt Zouma

Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma suffers Anterior Cruciate Ligament injury

Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma is expected to be out of action for approximately six months after suffering a horrific knee injury in the Blues’ draw with Manchester United yesterday.  The France defender was in agony as he landed awkwardly from a challenge midway through the second half of the clash at Stamford Bridge.  The 21-year-old has found his feet again under Guus Hiddink but he’s now expected to miss Euro 2016 following injury to his anterior cruciate ligament.  The defender took to Twitter today to confirm that he requires surgery on his ACL and the recovery time from such injuries spans from between six to nine months.

Metro 16.2.2016

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Lindsey Vonn suffers fractured knee in Soldeu fall

Lindsey Vonn suffered a hairline fracture to her left knee after a fall in Andorra on Saturday but says she could even be fit to race on Sunday.  The American, who has a history of knee injuries, started well in poor visibility but failed to hold a corner in the latter stages of the course and crashed off the piste in Soldeu.  The race was interrupted for around 10 minutes as Vonn lay on the snow surrounded by medical staff and coaches before being transported off the hill on a ski-stretcher.  The 31-year-old was unable to stand and was taken to an Andorra hospital, but despite saying she would not get a scan on the injury until Monday, Vonn is not ruling out competing in Sunday’s super-combined race at the same venue.  “Got caught in the soft snow today and crashed pretty hard. X-rays showed I have a hairline fracture in my left knee and will get an MRI on Monday,” Vonn wrote on her Instagram account next to a picture of her knee with a large ice pack on it.

“I will wait and see how I feel tomorrow to decide if I can race. Will keep you updated.”

The race had been due to start in mid-morning, but was delayed for three hours because of the difficult conditions, with strong winds and snowfall also forcing organisers to lower the start.  Chasing her fifth title, Vonn is leading the overall World Cup standings and was 23 points clear of Lara Gut of Switzerland ahead of the Soldeu race.  She claimed her 76th World Cup victory last month, taking her closer to the overall record of 86 held by Sweden’s Ingemar Stenmark.  The race was won by Italy’s Federica Brignone who went out early before the snowfall increased in intensity.  She clocked 57.33secs on a shortened course, 0.13secs clear of American Laurenne Ross and 0.37secs better than Tamara Tippler of Austria.  “When I went down it was really good,” Brignone said. “It was not the best conditions for the best racers, but I took advantage of my luck.”  Gut could only finish in 16th place, meaning that she took 15 points to move to within eight points of the stricken Vonn in the standings.

Sky News 27/02/16

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Kobe Bryant Achilles tendon rupture

Kobe Bryant Ruptures Achilles Tendon

Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant could be sidelined for up to nine months after tearing his Achilles tendon, the team said Saturday. An MRI later confirmed the tear.

“Bryant elected to have surgery to repair the torn left Achilles tendon,” the team said. “The successful surgery was performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache and Dr. Stephen Lombardo of the Kerlan Jobe Orthopaedic Group. Recovery time is expected to be a minimum of six to nine months.”

A ruptured Achilles could take up to a year to heal. Bryant has previously said that next season could be his last in the NBA. This is the 16th season in the league for the 34-year-old. Asked if the timetable means Bryant will be back next season, trainer Gary Vitti said on Twitter “that’s the plan.” Bryant reacted with disappointment on social media after the injury.  “This is such BS! All the training and sacrifice just flew out the window with one step that I’ve done millions of times! The frustration is unbearable. The anger is rage. Why the hell did this happen ?!? Makes no damn sense. Now I’m supposed to come back from this and be the same player Or better at 35?!? How in the world am I supposed to do that??

“I have NO CLUE. Do I have the consistent will to overcome this thing? Maybe I should break out the rocking chair and reminisce on the career that was. Maybe this is how my book ends. Maybe Father Time has defeated me.”

Later, Bryant called the injury the first step in a new challenge. “One day, the beginning of a new career journey will commence. Today is NOT that day,” he wrote. The post received more than 136,000 likes. According to an earlier tweet from the Lakers, Bryant could tell what the injury was before seeing a doctor. “I was just hoping it wasn’t what I thought it was,” Bryant said, according to the tweet. Bryant is the NBA’s fourth all-time leading scorer, and he currently ranks among the top three in the NBA in scoring this season, averaging 27.3 points. This season, he has averaged 5.6 rebounds, a team-high 6.0 assists, 1.36 steals and 38.6 minutes in 78 games.

CNN News

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Wearable tech may aid sporting injury treatment

You look at a sport like rugby, forward type players are tackling and being tackled multiple times in a training session or a match

Players are tackling and being tackled multiple times in a training session or a match

Wearable tracking devices are set to become even greater sports analysis tools for local athletes thanks to an algorithm developed by WA and Victorian sports scientists and mathematicians.


The researchers recently found accelerometer and gyroscope data from simple wearable tracking devices—in this case a Catapult S4—can accurately classify an activity athletes are doing using a certain algorithm. This finding could eventually help scientists analyse athlete’s movements in real time and gain a better understanding of the forces and injuries they experience. It isn’t just about detecting whether someone has been tackled, but understanding the magnitude of the tackle, Victoria University sports scientist Dr Sam Robertson says. Dr Robertson who initiated the collaboration with Curtin and Deakin Universities, says the information may lead to better injury treatment and prevention.

“You look at a sport like rugby, forward type players are tackling and being tackled multiple times in a training session or a match,” he says. “However it may not necessarily be the number of tackles that is doing the damage—it might be the intensity or magnitude of the tackle.


“With respect to injury, if we understand the types of movements players are undertaking at training then we can better understand how we expect them to respond to these loads.”

The algorithm’s ability to automatically classify training activities does away with the need to have scientists manually tracking athletes. “By using automated classification you take the burden off the practitioner being required to sit there and manually count the number of times a player runs, sprints or is tackled,” he says. Dr Robertson says the findings point to a logical next step in improving the information gained from wearable tracking technology.

“In high-level sport organisations have been obtaining a lot of data from wearable technologies over the last five or ten years,” he says. “It provides a real rich source of data potentially to understand the workloads of what athletes are experiencing.

“But up until recently most of that data has been used at a basic level as far as summary of how fast a player has run and the distance they travel. “We wanted to take that to another level and use the data to work out things like what types of movements people are doing rather than just how far they’re running.”

February 29, 2016 by Hamish Hastie, Sciencenetwork Wa
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National Football League Injuries

NFL injury statistics show numbers of concussions rose 32 per cent in 2015 season

Concussions are a worsening problem for the NFL after league injury statistics released on Saturday (AEDT) showed a 32 per cent jump in the serious head injuries this past season.  Data revealed total concussions suffered in pre-season and regular season NFL games jumped from 206 in 2014 to 271 in 2015, with tighter concussion protocols requiring players to be examined if their status is in doubt.  In regular season games and practices alone, there were 190 concussions documented, a 35 percent leap from 2014.  The news came 10 days ahead of Super Bowl 50, when the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers will meet for the NFL crown in the league’s annual championship decider.

The NFL toughened its concussion protocols and imposed stiffer penalties for blows to the head after there were 261 concussions reported in 2012.  But while the number had dipped for the prior two campaigns, this past season’s numbers show plenty of work remains to be done to protect players from head trauma.  A total of 92 concussions occurred due to contact with another helmet, one more than in 2012 when such impacts led to the rules crackdown and tougher medical standards to force players out of games until they were deemed medically fit by a doctor.  There were 29 concussions attributed to contact with the playing surface, the most in the past four seasons, and 23 due to being hit by the shoulder of an opponent.

Knee injuries were up last season, with 56 anterior cruciate ligament injuries up from 49 last season and 170 medial collateral ligament injuries, up from 139 the season before.  Injuries were down in games played on Sundays and Mondays but up in those taking place on Thursday nights, when teams have had fewer rest days to recover from prior weekend contests.  The injury rate per game was at 5.7 percent on Thursdays compared to 4.8 last season.  In all, 6.6 injuries were sustained in a Sunday or Monday game, down from 7.3 in 2014.

ABC News 30.1.2016

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