Is rugby a safe sport for kids to play in the UAE?

We address parent’s fears over the safety of the sport

Is rugby a safe sport for kids to play in the UAE?

The best rugby teams in the world are currently battling it out on the pitch in Japan to lift the World Cup. Closer to home, it is a sport that is growing in popularity with children across the UAE. However there remains a stigma surrounding the game when it comes to safety, and although most competitive sports do come with an element of risk, some parents have the, perhaps misplaced view, that injuries associated with rugby are more severe.

Children start playing contact rugby when they are in the under nine squad, which usually means they are eight years old from September 1, but it is a highly skilled contact sport and with the correct coaching and application of the law, it is a safe game,” says Jacques Benade, director of rugby at Dubai Exiles RFC.

“It’s slightly different for girls who can play contact rugby with the boys until under 12 before switching to non-contact rugby and then back to contact at under 19 level,” Benade explains.

Even though there is somewhat of a stigma surrounding the sport being dangerous Benade is quick to dismiss parental concerns as largely unfounded.

“Parents will naturally feel protective of their children with every risk activity they encounter. However, with the number of safety procedures being applied in clubs and schools, the benefits far outweigh the potential risks.”

And stricter laws governing the safety aspect of the sport mean that every age group currently, whether training or playing a match, has an on-pitch medical officer.

But Benade tells us that additional measures are being encouraged by rugby clubs across the UAE as well.

“Concussion testing provides baseline data on any player’s memory function. This can be compared to a player’s data following the concussion in order to measure the patient’s recovery. We support this testing 100 percent – it is a priority at the club – and is administered by Dubai Physiotherapy and Family Medicine Clinic, Jumeirah.”

But it’s not just at a local level where safety is being thrown into the spotlight.

World Rugby, the governing body is currently experimenting with lowering the tackle line from shoulder level to chest level, to avoid unnecessary contact to the head.

“This is something that will probably be introduced at the beginning of the next season, which might be early 2020 in the southern hemisphere and autumn 2020 for the northern hemisphere,” Benade points out.

So if your child is keen to take up rugby: “Contact a local club, do a taster session, talk to other parents and then enjoy watching your child grow into a happy and healthy individual.”

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