Wednesday, July 19, 2006

To scrum or not to scrum?

The rugby season must be nearly upon us since the eternal debate of whether to scrummage or not scrummage is once again raising its head (a penalty offence I believe)!

It is only natural and right that eminently qualified individuals should feel compelled to question this skill since it can, sadly, lead to serious injuries. I speak from bitter experience having been forced to retire from the game following a neck injury; though not one brought about through scrummaging. Oh no, mine was caused by a big “po-po” prop landing on my neck during a rucking drill.

The scrum can be a dangerous place; you only have to look at the psychological profiles of many front row forwards to understand the calibre of human being who would willingly place himself in the front row, risking ear malformations, nose replacements and any number of skin complaints. It is, however one of the most policed areas of the game and a vital weapon in any team’s armoury - even the Aussies are taking it seriously now!

Any team that dominates scrum has gone a long way to dominating a match and by removing it from the tapestry of the sport, you would alter it irrevocably. The scrum has already been altered to increase safety, both at age group level and at senior level. Tragically accidents do happen but even though one serious injury is one too many, they happen infrequently when set against the number of individuals who play the game.

What does need to be looked at is the exposure of young men to intensive scrummaging before they have had an opportunity to develop technically ad physically. There is a danger that by placing promising front row players in academies at such an early age you deprive them of the regular matches that would develop the necessary neck and shoulder strength and tactical know-how to cope with the rigours of the game. You will never be able to eradicate neck injuries from the scrum completely but you can reduce the likelihood of them occurring and in this instance, rugby as a whole is taking its responsibilities seriously.

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