Intended for healthcare professionals

Reviews Personal views

Rugby union should ban contested scrums

BMJ 2006; 332 doi: (Published 25 May 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:1281

No evidence to ban contested rugby scrums.

Editor- the view express by Mr J Bourke in the article ‘rugby union
should ban contested scrums’1 was both interesting and informative. Any
such spinal injury in a young adult or child is obviously not only
devastating to the individual but also a huge cost to society. To
conclude, however, that all contested scrums should be banned because of
this risk, we believe to be wrong. As stated in the article, it is in
fact the initial engagement in the scrum that is most likely to result in
injury and not the fact that the scrum is contested per say. Surely,
tighter control and regulation to avoid forceful engagement is therefore
the answer and not the banning of any contest in the scrum. Further to
this, although studies from Australia2 and Argentina3 have found more
spinal injuries to occur in the scrum, studies from Ireland4 and South
Africa5 have found that the majority of spinal injuries occur in the
tackle. Should we be therefore removing any form of contact from the game
of rugby? If we want to prevent spinal injury then this should surely be
the path to take.

1. Bourke JB. Rugby union should ban contested scrums. BMJ
2006;332:1281. (27 May.)

2. Spinecare Foundation, The Autralian Spinal Cord Injury Units. Spinal
cord injuries in Australian footballers. ANZ J SURG 2003;73:493-9.

3. Secin FP, Poggi EJ, Luzuriaga F, Laffaye HA. Disabling injuries of the
cervical spine in Argentine rugby over the last 20 years. J Bone Joint
Surg [Br] 1984; 66-B: 500-3.

4. Shelly MJ, Bulter JS, Timlin M, et al. Spinal injuries in Irish rugby.
J Bone Joint Surg [Br] 2006;88-B:771-775.

5. Kew T, Noakes TD, Kettles AN, et al. A retrospective study of spinal
cord injuries in Cape Province rugby players, 1963-1989: incidence,
mechanisms and prevention. S Afr Med J 1991;80:127-33.

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

10 June 2006
Paul d Hamilton
specialist registrar
Jeremy Read, Sebastian Dawson-Bowling.
Royal Sussex County Hospital, Brighton , BN2 5BE