New Zealand Rugby have responded to the warnings from world renowned neuropathologist Dr Bennet Omalu, saying they and World Rugby are doing everything they can to ensure the game is safe for children.
NZR said in a statement there was plenty of international research on head injuries in contact sport but the current consensus from the latest Berlin International Conference on Concussion in Sport is that more is required.
“For the moment, we still believe there are huge benefits for young and older people, to play and participate in any sport.
“In rugby, we do offer younger players the non-contact version of the game, Rippa Rugby. The safety of children in rugby is our highest priority and to this end we closely follow and participate in the ongoing conversation on concussion.
“We believe this ensures the well-being of our participants is optimised while retaining the essence of what it means to play rugby.”
The statement comes after Dr Omalu, told TVNZ1’s Breakfast today that he thinks children under the age of 18 shouldn’t play contact sports.
Dr Omalu was portrayed by actor Will Smith in the 2015 film Concussion which detailed his struggle against the NFL to have his discovery of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in players accepted.
“The big six are rugby, (American) football, boxing, ice hockey, mixed martial arts and wrestling,” he told Breakfast.
“If your child plays any of these games, even for one season, there is a 100 per cent risk of exposure to permanent brain damage.”
“Each and every parent must ask themselves, ‘do I love rugby more than I love my child?'”
In May this year, 19-year-old Wellington rugby player Daniel Baldwin died after suffering a head injury during a club match.