Rugby is a form of "child abuse" and should be banned for U18s, according to a UK study by academics at Bournemouth University and the University of Winchester.
The sport has been played at schools in the UK for over 200 years but researchers claim children should no longer be made to participate in order to protect their safety.
Researchers have advised that permitting children to take part in impact sports, such as rugby and boxing, should be considered a form of abuse to the child’s brain.
A new study, by academics at Bournemouth University and the University of Winchester, examined the strength of medical evidence showing impact sports cause serious brain injuries and concluded that this harm runs counter to existing laws around child abuse.
A paper, set to be published in Sports, Ethics & Philosophy: Journal of the British Philosophy of Sport Association cites the view that knocks to the head can go on to lead to conditions like dementia or Parkinson’s later in life.
Dr Keith Parry, Head of the Department for Sport and Event Management at Bournemouth University, said: “Tackle versions of rugby or American football might be fun, but there are no proven physical or mental health benefits in taking blows to the head, compared to safer, non-contact versions.
It is claimed by the researchers that parents do not understand the long-term risk of brain injuries to their children.
Those who begin playing rugby as children are more likely to risk brain trauma than those who start later in life, the study argues.
Eric Anderson, a professor of sport at the University of Winchester who led the study, told the Times: “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 of 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,” the researchers conclude.
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