Children playing rugby can be a form of child abuse, a new study has concluded. The research found that children should not be able to consent to playing rugby – and sparked a fiery discussion among parents.
In an article in The Times, Eric Anderson, a professor of sport at the University of Winchester, said: “Sports for children should not intentionally harm their brains. They should focus on fun, health and social development rather than conditioning them to play elite-level sport.
“These collisions cause cognitive harm and increase the risk of neurodegenerative diseases and dementia; they are therefore abusive to a child’s brain. Cultural perception is that striking a child outside sport is abuse but striking a child in sport is somehow socially acceptable. We are trying to change that. It doesn’t matter what the social context is, the brain is damaged in both.”
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He led a study in which academics from Winchester, Nottingham Trent and Bournemouth universities looked at medical evidence and concluded that the harm caused by rugby contravenes child abuse laws. The study is due to be published in Sports, Ethics & Philosophy: Journal of the British Philosophy of Sport Association.
The study says no concussive hit to the head is benign and neither children or their responsible adults are legally able to give informed consent for them to take part – adding that organisations responsible for impact sports effectively groom children into sports that cause what they call “brain abuse.”
Dr Anderson told Nicky Campbell on BBC 5 Live this morning: “Our argument is quite simply children don’t have the ability to consent, to understand the long-term damage that they’re causing to their brains, and therefore they should be given that ability to consent… there is absolutely a debate to be had between 16 and 18.”
The conclusions don’t just apply to rugby, said Dr Anderson – but to football (in which heading has been banned at youth level by several governing bodies) and others. Gary Turner, who contributed to the report, is a multiple former world champion in kickboxing and jujitsu. “I love my combat sports and they are an inherent part of my life,” he said, “but I can’t ignore what data say
…. to be continued
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