Man paralysed playing rugby as a teen speaks out against calls to ban tackling in the game at schools


A keen rugby player paralysed as a teenager playing the game has REJECTED the call for a ban on tackling in schools.

Nathan Cubitt from Silsden who broke his kneck playing rugby in 2011 (Yorkshire Post / SWNS Group)
Nathan Cubitt from Silsden who broke his kneck playing rugby in 2011 (Yorkshire Post / SWNS Group)

Nathan Cubitt was 16 when broke his neck in a scrum in 2011, while he was playing junior rugby for his local team.

The injury sustained while Nathan was playing for the Keighley Crusaders under 17s team left him paralysed from the armpits down, with movement in just his arms and wrists.

Now, aged 20, the young man from Silsden, West Yorks., said a ban on tackling would have a harmful effect.

Nathan was speaking out in response to an open letter to ministers, chief medical officers, and children’s commissioners, more than 70 doctors and academics have called for a move to purely touch or non-contact rugby in schools, claiming the majority of injuries in the “high-impact collision sport” are sustained while tackling.

Writing under the banner the ‘Sport Collision Injury Collective’, the authors said they were becoming “increasingly concerned” about the harms and risks of injuries to children playing school rugby.

The letter reads: “The majority of all injuries occur during contact or collision, such as the tackle and the scrum.

“These injuries, which include fractures, ligamentous tears, dislocated shoulders, spinal injuries, and head injuries can have short-term, lifelong, and life-ending consequences for children.

“We therefore request ministers remove the tackle and other forms of harmful contact from school rugby.”

Nathan responds: “If you take away contact rugby in schools, then players will not develop.

“Coaches need to teach children how to tackle properly.

“People get injured if they get taught how to tackle incorrectly, and it would be even worse if they are not taught at all.

“Once they get to higher-age rugby the tackles are three times as hard, so they would just hurt themselves more if they didn’t have the technique, it would be more dangerous.

His mum, Sue Cubitt, agreed with her son, adding: “Tackling has to be taught correctly from a young age, not banned.

“In clubs, everything is taught to Rugby Football Union (RFU) guidelines and this is what needs to be filtered down into schools.”

Jamie Beck, a lecturer at the University of Bradford (Telegraph & Argus / SWNS Group)
Jamie Beck, a lecturer at the University of Bradford (Telegraph & Argus / SWNS Group)

Jamie Beck, a lecturer at the University of Bradford specialising in medical imaging, recently published a paper discussing whether competitive scrums in rugby union should banned due to their potential of causing long-term medical problems.

In response to the arguments put forward to support a ban, he said: “”Highlighting tackling as the most dangerous element of the sport is undoubtedly true.

“If you took tackling out of school rugby you would make it safer, that is a fact.

“But, there has to be a balance.

“Parents, children, and teachers need to know that playing the game comes with a risk, particularly in terms of possible spinal injuries.

“I appreciate the sentiment, but I also appreciate that banning tackling goes against the heritage and essence of the game, and in my view, I think a ban would be a step too far.”

The RFU said “significant work” had been undertaken to develop new rules, set to come into force for schools and clubs in September, to ensure “maximum possible safety” for players at under seven to under 18 levels.

A spokesman said: “The RFU takes player safety extremely seriously, and this is at the core of all the training we deliver to coaches, referees, medics, and the players themselves, at all levels of the game.

“We work consistently to manage the risk involved in the contact nature of the sport, particularly for young people, including conducting a three-year injury prevention and surveillance study on schoolboy injuries.”

On a possible ban, a spokesman for the Department for Education said it expected “schools to be aware of the risks associated with sporting activities and to provide a safe environment for pupils.”


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