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Researchers Call For Junior Rugby To Ban Tackling Over Fears It Could Lead To Brain Damage

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Researchers Call For Junior Rugby To Ban Tackling Over Fears It Could Lead To Brain Damage

Researchers have called for tackling to be removed from junior rugby after evidence confirmed that repetitive head impacts have led to serious brain damage.

The study was conducted by researchers from nine academic institutions in six countries, including the University of Melbourne and the University of Sydney, 

The study concluded that chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) can be caused by consistent head impact in junior sports.

CTE is associated with behavioural, mental and cognitive impairments and can often lead to memory loss and personality changes. 

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Credit: Sport Picture Library / Alamy
Credit: Sport Picture Library / Alamy

It unfortunately can only be diagnosed post-mortem. 

Their findings were published in the journal Frontiers in Neurology, and they studied sports from AFL, football, hockey and many more.

Researchers were tasked with testing whether there was a relationship between environmental exposure and an adverse health outcome. 

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Each institution analysed a set of data to see if there was a consistent correlation between repetitive head impacts and CTE. 

Lead author of the study Chris Nowinski, who was a former WWE wrestler, said the analysis ‘gives us the highest scientific confidence that repeated head impacts cause CTE’.

As for preventing this from becoming a common disease, there have been calls to more seriously acknowledge the risks and modify children’s sports.

The Australian Institute of Sport’s most recent statement on concussions in sport maintained that the link between heavy brain impact and CTE ‘remains tenuous’.

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However, Dr Alan Pearce, who is a neuroscientist at La Trobe University and was a co-author of the report, says this statement is outdated. 

He told ABC News: “We're hoping that the sports will take notice and hoping they will now acknowledge more seriously the risks.”

He added: "We need to modify children's sport to try to reduce that exposure the same way we would smoking or drinking.

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"The risk of CTE doubles every three years of exposure to repetitive head trauma."

Suggestions for modifying children’s contact sports included restricting tackling and heading in junior sports. 

Earlier this year, the NSWRL imposed a six-week tackling ban on their under sixes players in order to allow the youngsters to properly learn the correct tackle technique for the first half of the season. 

Meanwhile, the UK’s Football Association is set to trial a ban on the deliberate heading of the ball for children under the age of 12.

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Adrien Cohen, who is a concussion expert and founder of Neurosafe believes any sport-related, high-impact rules should be limited until the start of high school.

He said: “When brain maturation has occurred, kids will be more resilient.”

Featured Image Credit: Steven May / Alamy. NRL/Supplied.

Topics: Health, Science, Rugby, Sport

Jayden Collins
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