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Tackling Bans In Junior Rugby Proposed After Researchers Say It Could Lead To Brain Damage

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Tackling Bans In Junior Rugby Proposed After Researchers Say It Could Lead To Brain Damage

There have been calls for tackling to be banned from junior rugby after studies found a correlation between repetitive head impacts and CTE.

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is often associated with mental and cognitive impairments and often leads to memory loss and personality changes.

Unfortunately, it can only be diagnosed after a patient has passed.

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A study was set up across nine different institutions across six countries in order to delve deeper into the correlation between repetitive head impact and the disease.

The study concluded that early onset CTE is heightened by head impacts at an early stage, and made suggestions to minimise the effect of junior sports on a growing brain.

Credit: Sport Picture Library / Alamy
Credit: Sport Picture Library / Alamy

Lead author of the study Chris Nowinski who was a former WWE wrestler said the analysis ‘gives us the highest scientific confidence that repeated head impacts cause CTE’.

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As for preventing this from becoming a common disease, there have been calls to more seriously acknowledge the risks and modify children’s sports.

Dr Alan Pearce, who is a neuroscientist at La Trobe University told ABC News: "We need to modify children's sport to try to reduce that exposure the same way we would smoking or drinking.

"The risk of CTE doubles every three years of exposure to repetitive head trauma."

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Currently, the Australian Institution of Sport maintains the link between heavy brain impact and CTE remains ‘tenuous’. 

However, Dr Pearce is hoping this new study will make them ‘acknowledge more seriously the risks’ that occur at a young age.

Their findings were published in the journal Frontiers in Neurology, studying sports from AFL, to football, to hockey and many more.

Researchers were tasked with testing whether there was a relationship between environmental exposure and an adverse health outcome. 

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Each institution analysed a set of data to see if there was a consistent correlation between repetitive head impacts and CTE. 

Suggestions for modifying children’s contact sports included restricting tackling and heading in junior sports. 

Earlier this year NSWRL imposed a six-week tackling ban on their under 6s players in order to allow the youngsters to properly learn the correct tackle technique for the first half of the season. 

Meanwhile, the UK’s Football Association are set to trial a ban on the deliberate heading of the ball for children under the age of 12.

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Adrien Cohen, who is a concussion expert and founder of Neurosafe believes any sport-related, high-impact rules should be limited until the start of high school.

He said: “When brain maturation has occurred, kids will be more resilient.”

Featured Image Credit: NRL/Supplied. Steven May / Alamy.

Topics: Rugby League, Australia, Rugby Union

Jayden Collins
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