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

Rugby union and contested scrums

Mr. James Bourke's reasoned argument (27 May Page l281) that rugby
union shoula ban contested scrums based on clear factual clinical analysis
renders a timely and crucial service to his profession, society, and sport
in general, as well as rugby union in particular. For while commercial
influences drive all public global and domestic sport as a vehicle for
mass entertainment, the
serious health consequences from burn out to serious injury are often
ignored by the myopic and ill informed self serving administrators who
call the
shots behind the screen of public scrutiny.

The citations from Burry and Caldina (BMJ 1988: 296: 149-50) and the
Court of Appeal compensation award in Vowles v Evans and the Welsh Rugby
Union are merely the tips of long standing icebergs.

As long ago as 1978 John Davies and Terry Gibson (BMJ: 23-30 Dec.
P.1759) recounted how foul play might have caused as many as 3l per cent
of all
reported rugby injuries in their hospital injuries clinic; and in the
British Journal of Sports Medicine, Vol. 14 Nos 2 & 3 August 1980, pp
84-9, Peter Sperryn reaffirmed: "It has Recently become evident that
deliberate foul play in
certain sports is directly responsible for many sports injuries".

During this last rugby season the so called "spear tackle " by New
Zealand on the British Lions visiting captain was hardly penalised; an
England international was red carded for the first time at Twickenham and
Welsh international Gavin Henson successfully appealed for a reduction of
suspension after injuring an opponent, all of which required medical

In a comment on Mr. Bourke's contribution in the Daily Telegraph (26
May) the former England forward and Metropo1itan Police Inspector, Paul
Ackford, explained:
"The frequency of injuries has got greater at the top level
because of the increased size an strength of the modern rugby player since
professionalism came in".

Correspondingly, the increased size and strength of modern rugby and
sports competitions awards at all levels increase the risk elements for
which only the medical profession appears equipped and ready to limit

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

05 June 2006
Edward Grayson
Founder president, British Association for Sport and Law
London WC2A 1AD