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Concussion (Merged Threads)


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It's obvious which way the wind is blowing, and yet people want to pee in the other direction. Making the game safer and "toning down the biff" won't kill this sport, but parents refusing to let their kids play, insurers refusing to insure and legal claims from ex-players will. 

I take a bit of issue with the whole "professional players have a choice" argument. 

Yes, the players may choose to sign a contract, but there are two important issues with that. 

Firstly, that doesn't absolve the club of their duty of care as employers

Secondly, whilst the players may choose to sign the contract, what they don't get to choose is what they're forced to do under the terms of that contract. The players don't have a voice in the the number of games they're expected to play. They don't have a voice in being made to play games with short turnarounds, or multiple games in the space of a week. They don't have a voice when it comes to the training methods and regimes adopted at that club. All of these things they're compelled to go along with contractually, and all of these things can be changed by the sporting or commercial whims of the club and the league. If my employer asked me to do something under the terms of my contract that I didn't think was safe, I would refuse to do it and I would, in all probability, have the weight of the law to support me in that. Do our players really have the same choice and protection in that respect? 

If this was any other industry, where certain practices were suspected of being damaging to people's long-term health, it wouldn't be accepted. There are lots of jobs that have risk, but those jobs are forced to adapt to those risks - it's why we don't have huge problems in this country with roofers falling off scaffolding, truck drivers falling asleep at the wheel or construction workers being killed on site (and why the Western world rightly criticises what's going on with projects like the World Cup stadiums in Qatar). It's also why we don't build factories out of asbestos any more. We didn't say to those people "you chose to work in a factory with asbestos - it's your fault you got cancer". 

This narrative isn't going away, so the sport really has a choice - be proactive and respond to this challenge, or take the head in sand approach, hoping that it can get away with as minimal changes as possible, because that's what commercial pressures of today dictate. 

Edited by whatmichaelsays
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  • John Drake changed the title to Concussion (Merged Threads)

6 minutes ago, whatmichaelsays said:

It's obvious which way the wind is blowing, and yet people want to pee in the other direction. Making the game safer and "toning down the biff" won't kill this sport, but parents refusing to let their kids play, insurers refusing to insure and legal claims from ex-players will. 

I take a bit of issue with the whole "professional players have a choice" argument. 

Yes, the players may choose to sign a contract, but what they don't get to choose is what they're forced to do under the terms of that contract. The players don't have a voice in the the number of games they're expected to play. They don't have a voice in being made to play games with short turnarounds, or multiple games in the space of a week. They don't gave a voice when it comes to the training methods and regimes adopted at that club. All of these things they're compelled to go along with contractually, and all of these things can be changed by the sporting or commercial whims of the club and the league. Do our players really have a choice in that respect? 

If this was any other industry, where certain practices were suspected of being damaging to people's long-term health, it wouldn't be accepted. There are lots of jobs that have risk, but those jobs are forced to adapt to those risks - it's why we don't have huge problems in this country with roofers falling off scaffolding, truck drivers falling asleep at the wheel or construction workers being killed on site (and why the Western world rightly criticises what's going on with projects like the World Cup stadiums in Qatar). It's also why we don't build factories out of asbestos any more. We didn't say to those people "you chose to work in a factory with asbestos - it's your fault you got cancer". 

This narrative isn't going away, so the sport really has a choice - be proactive and respond to this challenge, or take the head in sand approach, hoping that it can get away with as minimal changes as possible, because that's what commercial pressures of today dictate. 

The mouth guards incentive is reactive, whereas aiming at the root causes plus effective communication & education with coaches and players on safer techniques are proactive, quick wins and easy to do.  All this should be happening 1st month if pre season.

Still doesn’t take away the legal big hit.  I don’t want that taking away.  

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22 minutes ago, whatmichaelsays said:

It's obvious which way the wind is blowing, and yet people want to pee in the other direction. Making the game safer and "toning down the biff" won't kill this sport, but parents refusing to let their kids play, insurers refusing to insure and legal claims from ex-players will. 

I take a bit of issue with the whole "professional players have a choice" argument. 

Yes, the players may choose to sign a contract, but there are two important issues with that. 

Firstly, that doesn't absolve the club of their duty of care as employers

Secondly, whilst the players may choose to sign the contract, what they don't get to choose is what they're forced to do under the terms of that contract. The players don't have a voice in the the number of games they're expected to play. They don't have a voice in being made to play games with short turnarounds, or multiple games in the space of a week. They don't gave a voice when it comes to the training methods and regimes adopted at that club. All of these things they're compelled to go along with contractually, and all of these things can be changed by the sporting or commercial whims of the club and the league. If my employer asked me to do something under the terms of my contract that I didn't think was safe, I would refuse to do it and I would, in all probability, have the weight of the law to support me in that. Do our players really have the same choice and protection in that respect? 

If this was any other industry, where certain practices were suspected of being damaging to people's long-term health, it wouldn't be accepted. There are lots of jobs that have risk, but those jobs are forced to adapt to those risks - it's why we don't have huge problems in this country with roofers falling off scaffolding, truck drivers falling asleep at the wheel or construction workers being killed on site (and why the Western world rightly criticises what's going on with projects like the World Cup stadiums in Qatar). It's also why we don't build factories out of asbestos any more. We didn't say to those people "you chose to work in a factory with asbestos - it's your fault you got cancer". 

This narrative isn't going away, so the sport really has a choice - be proactive and respond to this challenge, or take the head in sand approach, hoping that it can get away with as minimal changes as possible, because that's what commercial pressures of today dictate. 

you've also got the issue, and I know at 18 they're legally responsible for their own decisions, that what you think is a good idea and you're happy to do at 18-24 you might be regretting by 30 - job, smoking, drugs, choice of girlfriend, whatever. You might regret choosing to be a chartered accountant, but you can get out of that at any time and it doesn't pop up 4 decades down the line and give you dementia.

An approach to do nothing is basically turning to the players in later life and saying 'well, you played silly games, so here's your silly prize' 

which I'm not sure cuts it any more.

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3 minutes ago, iffleyox said:

you've also got the issue, and I know at 18 they're legally responsible for their own decisions, that what you think is a good idea and you're happy to do at 18-24 you might be regretting by 30 - job, smoking, drugs, choice of girlfriend, whatever. You might regret choosing to be a chartered accountant, but you can get out of that at any time and it doesn't pop up 4 decades down the line and give you dementia.

An approach to do nothing is basically turning to the players in later life and saying 'well, you played silly games, so here's your silly prize' 

which I'm not sure cuts it any more.

Agree, and I think there is actually a "human decency" element to all of this. 

Arguing that the players "know what they're doing, understand the risks and should therefore live with the consequences" bascially just demeans them to the level of circus freaks, giving themselves live-limiting injuries and illnesses for our amusement, the financial gain of others and, in most cases, pretty modest financial rewards for themselves. 

I'm not sure what that says about the people who want to derive entertainment, or to try and extract profit, from that. 

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The game needs to take reasonable steps such as limiting training contact sessions (NFL have 1 contact session a week) , clamping down on all contact with head and neck (RU has done this already) , stop players leading with their forearm because they're carrying the ball (RU has done this already), annual medicals for pro players (boxers have licences), mandatory mouth guards. It's impossible to remove all risk, but you can take steps to reduce it.

And I know a keen RL fan who's hoping her son will pack rugby in because of what's she's seen about dementia. Her son is 7 years old. Rightly or wrongly that's her view and I suspect she won't be alone in this.

Edited by Wakefield Ram
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1 hour ago, whatmichaelsays said:

It's obvious which way the wind is blowing, and yet people want to pee in the other direction. Making the game safer and "toning down the biff" won't kill this sport, but parents refusing to let their kids play, insurers refusing to insure and legal claims from ex-players will. 

I take a bit of issue with the whole "professional players have a choice" argument. 

Yes, the players may choose to sign a contract, but there are two important issues with that. 

Firstly, that doesn't absolve the club of their duty of care as employers

Secondly, whilst the players may choose to sign the contract, what they don't get to choose is what they're forced to do under the terms of that contract. The players don't have a voice in the the number of games they're expected to play. They don't have a voice in being made to play games with short turnarounds, or multiple games in the space of a week. They don't have a voice when it comes to the training methods and regimes adopted at that club. All of these things they're compelled to go along with contractually, and all of these things can be changed by the sporting or commercial whims of the club and the league. If my employer asked me to do something under the terms of my contract that I didn't think was safe, I would refuse to do it and I would, in all probability, have the weight of the law to support me in that. Do our players really have the same choice and protection in that respect? 

If this was any other industry, where certain practices were suspected of being damaging to people's long-term health, it wouldn't be accepted. There are lots of jobs that have risk, but those jobs are forced to adapt to those risks - it's why we don't have huge problems in this country with roofers falling off scaffolding, truck drivers falling asleep at the wheel or construction workers being killed on site (and why the Western world rightly criticises what's going on with projects like the World Cup stadiums in Qatar). It's also why we don't build factories out of asbestos any more. We didn't say to those people "you chose to work in a factory with asbestos - it's your fault you got cancer". 

This narrative isn't going away, so the sport really has a choice - be proactive and respond to this challenge, or take the head in sand approach, hoping that it can get away with as minimal changes as possible, because that's what commercial pressures of today dictate. 

I wish I’d had the patience to type all this out when I started the thread as I concur with every word.  Just read the above guys, it says it all brilliantly.

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5 hours ago, tim2 said:

And when everybody stops playing it?

When parents don't take their kids to play?

That unfortunately is going to be unavoidable Tim,

As long as there is a miniscule gap for 'ambulance chasing lawyers' to pursue and put in a crowbar to open up intensify and exacerbate something that can make them a few bob they will exhaust it untill it goes the way of the way of the dodo and nothing is left, they will publicly paint the sport so dangerous that it will be inevitable parents will not be 'risking' what will be deemed the unavoidable outcome for kids who take up the sport. 

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11 hours ago, cookey said:

Contact with the head has now been virtually stopped in rugby union. No sorrys, no I slipped, no, sorry I was off balance, it has been virtually stopped or is followed by a red card.

In the community ru game, there was a radid increase in dismissals for the first month of the season but already it has been accepted and the game is much safer for it. Most high tackles are down to poor technique or thugs playing the sport.

 

RU is not “much safer”. It’s more dangerous than ever. The players on average weigh four to five stone heavier than the amateur era, making each collision a mini car crash. And those body collisions (not talking head collisions) have a whiplash effect which causes the brain to move inside the skull. Towards the end of the last NRL season Ryan Papenhuyzen was knocked out cold and his head wasn’t touched. 

Due to the size of the players the hits are now enormous, increasing the danger to player health.

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It is not the concussions. They do play a part, as the outward manifestation of a distressed brain, but the damage to those brains is constant in a sport like rugby and correlates to the sheer number of blows each brain takes, directly or indirectly, over a prolonged period. “You cannot interpret it any other way,” says Professor Damian Bailey, lead author of the USW study. “You’ve got this noxious, cumulative, recurrent contact that doesn’t actually need to be anywhere near the head, so long as there’s some sort of torsional movement imparted to the brain. And it just builds up over time.” Bailey is the director of the neurovascular research laboratory at USW and works, among other projects, with the European Space Agency on blood flow to the brain of astronauts. He was also a handy scrum-half in his time.

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2021/aug/06/rugbys-problems-run-much-deeper-than-concussion-from-the-odd-big-hit

Its kidology to say “head impacts are clamped down on so things will be fine”. The sheer size of these blokes, colliding constantly, they accumulate damage. Players colliding in the amateur era was common, but the players looked human then. Add five stone of muscle and you are now a deadly weapon.

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1 hour ago, Harry Stottle said:

That unfortunately is going to be unavoidable Tim,

As long as there is a miniscule gap for 'ambulance chasing lawyers' to pursue and put in a crowbar to open up intensify and exacerbate something that can make them a few bob they will exhaust it untill it goes the way of the way of the dodo and nothing is left, they will publicly paint the sport so dangerous that it will be inevitable parents will not be 'risking' what will be deemed the unavoidable outcome for kids who take up the sport. 

What the game has to do is take all reasonable precautions. It's nothing to do with lawyers, it's to do with trying to reduce the risk of brain damage to players. Why is this even controversial? Do people genuinely think it's sensible to not try and protect players as well as we can?

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5 minutes ago, DC77 said:

It is not the concussions. They do play a part, as the outward manifestation of a distressed brain, but the damage to those brains is constant in a sport like rugby and correlates to the sheer number of blows each brain takes, directly or indirectly, over a prolonged period. “You cannot interpret it any other way,” says Professor Damian Bailey, lead author of the USW study. “You’ve got this noxious, cumulative, recurrent contact that doesn’t actually need to be anywhere near the head, so long as there’s some sort of torsional movement imparted to the brain. And it just builds up over time.” Bailey is the director of the neurovascular research laboratory at USW and works, among other projects, with the European Space Agency on blood flow to the brain of astronauts. He was also a handy scrum-half in his time.

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2021/aug/06/rugbys-problems-run-much-deeper-than-concussion-from-the-odd-big-hit

Its kidology to say “head impacts are clamped down on so things will be fine”. The sheer size of these blokes, colliding constantly, they accumulate damage. Players colliding in the amateur era was common, but the players looked human then. Add five stone of muscle and you are now a deadly weapon.

Breaking it down there's two aspects. Concussive impacts and frequency. If the numbers of subs and substitutions were reduced, then the 18-20 stone forwards doing 20 min stints would be eliminated. It would mean players playing longer minutes though. 5-7m instead of 10m might force more play away from the 5 drives and a kick. Not sure how you'd do it, but "big hits" need to go. Rule it as a "reckless" tackle? Reducing contact sessions would reduce frequency of impacts.

At the end of the day, it needs a culture change in the game away from power and macho "smashing" your opponents. Whether the game in general is up to that sort of change  who knows. But legal action might force it.

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I think people are arguing that liking the physical side of RL makes you some sort of caveman but it's not so.

Rugby League is without doubt the most physical, toughest sport on earth. Remove the elements that make it this...and you simply have a different game. 

This is purely an observation, not a 'bring back the biff' argument or anything like that, just a fact. If RL is changed to be less physical, then it will be a different game. Hey, who knows, it might be still great.... just not the same game.

 

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40 minutes ago, Johnoco said:

I think people are arguing that liking the physical side of RL makes you some sort of caveman but it's not so.

Rugby League is without doubt the most physical, toughest sport on earth. Remove the elements that make it this...and you simply have a different game. 

This is purely an observation, not a 'bring back the biff' argument or anything like that, just a fact. If RL is changed to be less physical, then it will be a different game. Hey, who knows, it might be still great.... just not the same game.

 

This is true. But it's already a different game to the one that people watched in the 1980s, 1970s, 1960s...

It may be saved as a contact sport by reducing contact training (do players who have been playing for 10-20 years need tackling practice?), even lower tackles and going back to 5m defensive lines. It is likely to become very different but possibly more skillful. 

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"I am the avenging angel; I come with wings unfurled, I come with claws extended from halfway round the world. I am the God Almighty, I am the howling wind. I care not for your family; I care not for your kin. I come in search of terror, though terror is my own; I come in search of vengeance for crimes and crimes unknown. I care not for your children, I care not for your wives, I care not for your country, I care not for your lives." - (c) Jim Boyes - "The Avenging Angel"

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4 minutes ago, tim2 said:

This is true. But it's already a different game to the one that people watched in the 1980s, 1970s, 1960s...

It may be saved as a contact sport by reducing contact training (do players who have been playing for 10-20 years need tackling practice?), even lower tackles and going back to 5m defensive lines. It is likely to become very different but possibly more skillful. 

That is something that i have been thinking. Pro players have been playing since school so you would think that by the time they are pro they would be proficient enough in tackling.

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52 minutes ago, tim2 said:

This is true. But it's already a different game to the one that people watched in the 1980s, 1970s, 1960s...

It may be saved as a contact sport by reducing contact training (do players who have been playing for 10-20 years need tackling practice?), even lower tackles and going back to 5m defensive lines. It is likely to become very different but possibly more skillful. 

Yes, fair comment. The game has probably changed very much since the 60's or 70's. But I think the difference is that it did so sort of organically (for want of a better word) So that the headhunters and so on were seen as things from a bygone era. Not too many people will complain about that.

But having the threat of litigation hanging over it if a player gets injured in circumstances A,B or C could change the game too quickly. I hope I'm wrong. 

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1 hour ago, Liverpool Rover said:

That is something that i have been thinking. Pro players have been playing since school so you would think that by the time they are pro they would be proficient enough in tackling.

 

1 hour ago, tim2 said:

It may be saved as a contact sport by reducing contact training (do players who have been playing for 10-20 years need tackling practice?)

That's like saying they should also not need practice of catching, passing, sidestepping etc. It also ignores the fact that tackling is a perceptual skill as much as technique. By not practicing it you risk this perception deteriorating and the tackler being more at risk than before, especially as attackers presumably won't be banned from practicing their sidestepping or carrying position into contact.

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3 hours ago, Wakefield Ram said:

Breaking it down there's two aspects. Concussive impacts and frequency. If the numbers of subs and substitutions were reduced, then the 18-20 stone forwards doing 20 min stints would be eliminated. It would mean players playing longer minutes though. 5-7m instead of 10m might force more play away from the 5 drives and a kick. Not sure how you'd do it, but "big hits" need to go. Rule it as a "reckless" tackle? Reducing contact sessions would reduce frequency of impacts.

At the end of the day, it needs a culture change in the game away from power and macho "smashing" your opponents. Whether the game in general is up to that sort of change  who knows. But legal action might force it.

100% agree with the subs issue. Not quite so sure how bad it is in RL (according to Mark Evans it’s not too bad as almost all the players look tired at the end) but in RU it’s a farce. I’m sure most have seen the routine in RU with 50 minutes played at least four fresh 18 stone plus blokes with necks thicker than their heads enter the field en masse ready to finish off those who are knackered. Not only is this adding extra danger to the collisions, it means players can carry around extra bulk knowing they only have short stints. Taking out this double whammy will at least be one step forward. So maximum three subs per 80 (maybe make allowances for an extra sub for anyone deliberately taken out).

Ultimately the goal has to be to get players down to a normal human size. No matter what rules they come up with, if the players remain as big as they are, in a collision sport, this issue will remain.

 

 

Edited by DC77
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7 hours ago, DC77 said:

100% agree with the subs issue. Not quite so sure how bad it is in RL (according to Mark Evans it’s not too bad as almost all the players look tired at the end) but in RU it’s a farce. I’m sure most have seen the routine in RU with 50 minutes played at least four fresh 18 stone plus blokes with necks thicker than their heads enter the field en masse ready to finish off those who are knackered. Not only is this adding extra danger to the collisions, it means players can carry around extra bulk knowing they only have short stints. Taking out this double whammy will at least be one step forward. So maximum three subs per 80 (maybe make allowances for an extra sub for anyone deliberately taken out).

Ultimately the goal has to be to get players down to a normal human size. No matter what rules they come up with, if the players remain as big as they are, in a collision sport, this issue will remain.

 

 

Getting more players down to a more normal size must help.

By coincidence, watched Stevie Ward: living with concussion this morning and not sure how anyone can watch that and say the answer is to do nothing.

1800 die on the roads each year and no-one is saying to ban driving. But there are laws about wearing seat belts to protect ourselves, speed limits etc so what is the argument against trying to protect players brains?

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9 hours ago, Saint 1 said:

 

That's like saying they should also not need practice of catching, passing, sidestepping etc. It also ignores the fact that tackling is a perceptual skill as much as technique. By not practicing it you risk this perception deteriorating and the tackler being more at risk than before, especially as attackers presumably won't be banned from practicing their sidestepping or carrying position into contact.

Fair point, but it could be drastically reduced.

I'm still a bit confused by the fact that boxing doesn't seem to be top of the list, with rugby and football well below in the "hit list".

"I am the avenging angel; I come with wings unfurled, I come with claws extended from halfway round the world. I am the God Almighty, I am the howling wind. I care not for your family; I care not for your kin. I come in search of terror, though terror is my own; I come in search of vengeance for crimes and crimes unknown. I care not for your children, I care not for your wives, I care not for your country, I care not for your lives." - (c) Jim Boyes - "The Avenging Angel"

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3 minutes ago, tim2 said:

Fair point, but it could be drastically reduced.

I'm still a bit confused by the fact that boxing doesn't seem to be top of the list, with rugby and football well below in the "hit list".

Do they really practice much tackling, as in type of big collisions we are talking about?

To the best of my knowledge at professional level they don't to reduce injury as much as anything. It's all about technique, controlling the tackle, grappling and slowing down the tackled player getting up. Professional players aren't doing all these big hits all the time in training.

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9 hours ago, DC77 said:

100% agree with the subs issue. Not quite so sure how bad it is in RL (according to Mark Evans it’s not too bad as almost all the players look tired at the end) but in RU it’s a farce. I’m sure most have seen the routine in RU with 50 minutes played at least four fresh 18 stone plus blokes with necks thicker than their heads enter the field en masse ready to finish off those who are knackered. Not only is this adding extra danger to the collisions, it means players can carry around extra bulk knowing they only have short stints. Taking out this double whammy will at least be one step forward. So maximum three subs per 80 (maybe make allowances for an extra sub for anyone deliberately taken out).

 

 

A perfect example of this was on Five Live this morning. They were discussing the upcoming England - South Africa RU test, and basically saying South Africa's tactics are to bring on a completely new front row in the second half to batter the tired opponents into submission. That's as far as my tactical RU knowledge extends as I haven't watched a game for 20+ years, but what struck me was the response of the presenters.

Rachel Burden, as a notorious ruggerphile, was waxing lyrical about these tactics and saying how fantastic it is that they can grind the opposition into the ground through sheer physical force. Rick Edwards, the new presenter and self-confessed 'rugby' novice, didn't sound wholly convinced, and replied something along the lines of 'so it's about getting a load of fresh lumps to batter tired players?'. Burden enthusiastically agreed, as if this is a perfectly legitimate way to play the game. Which I suppose it is is whilst it's still within the laws of the game.

There are people like Burden on both sides of the code divide, but I'm pretty sure it won't be them who are waking up in 20 years to a brain which no longer functions.

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It's a serious issue and should result in some rule changes, playing-style changes, etc. These are inevitable. Just wait till arthritis is brought into the equation, too. The harm done to knee, hip, elbow joints and vertibrae through impact visits people in later life and have serious consequences. 

A faster, much more open and skilful game can be just as entertaining as seeing a full back running straight into a gang of big lads, as Offiah, Boston, Van Vollenhoven, Preston etc have shown.

The problem with being punctual is that there is no one there to appreciate it.

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25 minutes ago, JohnM said:

It's a serious issue and should result in some rule changes, playing-style changes, etc. These are inevitable. Just wait till arthritis is brought into the equation, too. The harm done to knee, hip, elbow joints and vertibrae through impact visits people in later life and have serious consequences. 

A faster, much more open and skilful game can be just as entertaining as seeing a full back running straight into a gang of big lads, as Offiah, Boston, Van Vollenhoven, Preston etc have shown.

Personally I'd like to see that "faster, much more open and skilful game".

I guess the difficulty is how we get to that.  Reasonable quickly or immediately at the junior community game and what rule changes are needed at the senior/elite level.

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15 hours ago, Wakefield Ram said:

Breaking it down there's two aspects. Concussive impacts and frequency. If the numbers of subs and substitutions were reduced, then the 18-20 stone forwards doing 20 min stints would be eliminated. It would mean players playing longer minutes though. 5-7m instead of 10m might force more play away from the 5 drives and a kick. Not sure how you'd do it, but "big hits" need to go. Rule it as a "reckless" tackle? Reducing contact sessions would reduce frequency of impacts.

At the end of the day, it needs a culture change in the game away from power and macho "smashing" your opponents. Whether the game in general is up to that sort of change  who knows. But legal action might force it.

I agree with a lot of this but a fair, hard tackle is what I would call a big hit.  I think we are dealing in semantics here.  Shoulder charges and those with no attempt to wrap the arms are illegal yet dealt with quite leniently sometimes.

But to go back to the ‘smashing’ comment, these mindsets will never go - and that is ok, as long as the  ‘smashing’  mindset means ‘fairly’.  

Deliberate, illegal hits need to be punished promptly and within the laws.  It really is that simple.

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56 minutes ago, redjonn said:

Personally I'd like to see that "faster, much more open and skilful game".

I guess the difficulty is how we get to that.  Reasonable quickly or immediately at the junior community game and what rule changes are needed at the senior/elite level.

Making sure players remain in the scrum until the ball is released, sort out several issues at the PTB will open up the game in SL imo.

 

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