As Rugby World Cup fever builds, a new generation will be inspired to get onto the pitch. But is it safe for kids to play such a physical game?
With countless tackles, rucks and scrums, rugby is dynamic, strategic and a whole lot of fun. Interest in rugby union is likely to surge this spring as the Wallabies compete in the Rugby World Cup in Japan. For many parents, sending their kids off to a rugby match is a scary notion – but is the sport as tough as it seems?
How safe is rugby for kids?
Like any sport, rugby isn’t without risk - but good warm-ups, cool-downs and tackling technique all help to minimise any dangers. According to Sports Medicine Australia, there are around 16 injuries for every 1,000 hours of rugby played by schoolchildren. Over 50% of these injuries are classed as minimal or mild and result in no missed games.
Rugby Australia is working hard to make sure the sport is safe for players of all ages, as James Selby, General Manager of Community Rugby explains:
“In 2018 we introduced the ‘Size for Age’ guidelines. These allow players to be moved up or down a grade depending on their size and experience rather than their age. This has been particularly beneficial to kids who are small for their age as they can now play alongside and against children of a similar size.”
Another initiative rolled out by Rugby Australia in 2018 is the ‘Blue Card’. “This is to safeguard against concussions,” explains Selby, “if a player is shown a Blue Card during a match it means they may be at risk of a concussion. The player must leave the field immediately to undergo medical assessment before returning to rugby.”
What are the benefits of rugby for kids?
Getting fit and being part of a team is beneficial for most children, but James Selby believes rugby in particular has something special to offer.
“The great thing about rugby is that there’s a spot for every kid on the team, no matter their size or experience. We’re also seeing a surge of females taking to the field with almost a 50/50 split in schools across Australia.”
“With rugby,” says Selby, “you’re not just joining a sports team, you’re joining a community that provides support both on and off the field – and that applies to the parents as well as the children taking part.”
Rugby also offers amazing opportunities to travel and play internationally, with youth competitions running from an early age, broadening kids’ horizons through sport.
How can I get my kids started with rugby?
Modified forms of the game, like Touch 7s, are a great way of learning ball skills and how to run lines without the contact element of rugby union.
For kids (or adults) looking to learn the ropes, Rugby Australia’s ‘Get into Rugby’ program is a 4-8 week beginners’ course. With offshoots all over Australia, the program focuses on teaching basic skills and promoting rugby as a social and fun sport. Once you feel your kids are ready to join a team, send Rugby Australia an email and they can help put you in touch with options near you.
With the Rugby World Cup kicking off on the 20th September parents should feel confident that rugby union is a sport the whole family can get behind. For adults keen to give rugby a go, income protection insurance can give you peace of mind to give it your all knowing you’re covered should you sustain an injury and can’t work.