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Rugby World Cup – New Scrum rules good news in the fight against head injuries
As excitement ramps up for the Rugby World Cup starting this evening once again the health and wellbeing of Rugby players will be in the limelight.
There has been a lot of discussion around the new scrum rules which will be in play for this tournament. As far as the game goes players and coaches alike are divided about the benefits of the new rules. The theory is that with the new rules the scrum will not go down as often and therefore the flow of the game will improve. The changes have been made as part of a global trial which is aimed at enhancing player welfare by reducing impact on engagement at a scrum.
However, Tom Youngs, England’s hooker, feels that the new rules make him more vulnerable and make his position very difficult. He thinks ‘It’s a lot of change for not much actual change in play.’
Richard Cockerill, Leicester director of rugby has criticised lawmakers for introducing changes to the scrum without consulting Premiership coaches. He is suspicious that the southern hemisphere has put pressure on the IRB to change the laws under the guise of safety but actually to depower the scrum. Dean Richards, Newcastle director of rugby also has his concerns “There’s no secret that the southern hemisphere has had agendas in the past, in terms of dealing with the laws. You’d like to think that when they’ve said the changes are for safety reasons, that’s the reason they’ve been made.”
The new rules mean that the scrum is set before the referee allows players to start pushing. The new instructions will be to “crouch, bind and set”. In the old rules binding and pushing all happened at once, this kind of scrum was more unstable and the player’s heads, necks and shoulders took the brunt of the force. Over time this repetitive force on these areas of the body leads to long term injury. The new rules mean that the power of the scrum on engagement will be decreased by 25%.
This can only be good news as far as long term injuries are concerned. A British Journal of Sports Medicine article on head, face and neck injury in youth rugby found that contact phases of rugby— that is, the tackle, other impacts and scrums—accounted for 78% of all head, face and neck injury, which is not surprising, as head, face and neck injury generally results from impact. Contact events including the scrum and tackle, were the main events leading to injury.
Dr William Stewart, consultant neuropathologist says that ‘We can’t be sure how repeated concussion affect the brain over the long term, more importantly, who might most be at risk of long term damage. What we can say is that these injuries need to be taken seriously. Shoulders can be rebuilt, hips can be replaced but if you damage your brain you can’t get it back.’
It will be interesting to see how the new rule plays out over the tournament but it is without a doubt good news as far as preventing head injuries is concerned.
…………Lastly good luck to the Home Nations!!
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