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Ban tackling in school rugby games to prevent serious injury, doctors urge

Watch ITV News Sport Correspondent Ian Payne's report above.

Tackling should be banned in school rugby games due to the risk of "serious injury" among under-18s, a group of more than 70 doctors and health experts have warned.

In an open letter to ministers, medical officers and children's commissioners, doctors describe rugby as a "high-impact collision sport" and urged schools to switch to touch rugby and non-contact rugby.

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Academics, doctors, and public health professionals are among those to have signed the letter, and said studies show children were being made vulnerable to "serious and catastrophic risk of injury".

"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, life-long, and life-ending consequences for children."

Concussion is a common injury, it adds, while injuries can "result in significant time loss from school".

There is a risk of Credit: PA

Prof Allyson Pollock, of the Queen Mary University of London, was among those to sign the letter.

Rugby is a high-impact collision sport and given that children are more susceptible to injuries such as concussion, the absence of injury surveillance systems and primary prevention strategies is worrying.

Children are being left exposed to serious and catastrophic risk of injury. As a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the UK and Irish governments should ensure the safety of rugby, by removing the contact from the children's game in schools.

– Prof Allyson Pollock, Queen Mary University of London

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) said schools were already able to choose between playing rugby as a contact or a non-contact sport, while "building blocks" to gradually introduce contact had been provided.

This means that full 15-a-side rugby will begin a year later at under 14 and provide a gradual and more managed introduction of the contact game around the tackle will take place from under nine to under 12 instead of over just two years at under nine and under 10 as previously.

This will give players, teachers and coaches more time to master the techniques in a safer and more supportive environment.

– RFU spokesman

Rugby stars past and present have been giving their views on the proposal.