Dislocated knee, various muscle pulls, torn abdominal muscle, herniated discs, a torn muscle running through my shoulder and neck, 3 concussions, dislocated fingers.
That's my catalogue of rugby injuries. (I won't include the hockey and football injuries!) I started playing rugby at 11, I 'retired' due to my back injury at 20. I missed at least 2 whole seasons due to injury and stopped playing between the ages of 16 (when i left school) to 19 (when I signed for Balsall and Berkswell in National 3).
So those injuries are attributed to what is basically 4 or 5 seasons of rugby missed. And it doesn't include the cuts, scrapes, friction burns, dead legs etc etc.
I keep reading articles about injuries to kids and how to make rugby safer, but nowadays, there are shoulder pads,wrist guards, padded undershorts, headguards etc, When I was playing, we had shinpads and gumshields. That was it. I was stopped from wearing shoulder pads after I tore my shoulder muscle because it was rules a 'risk' as it could be pulled and choke me...... Contact is even banned in kids rugby until a certain age now, I never played touch rugby, full contact from day 1!
So how much safer do we make rugby? Do we have to go down the American Football route? Do we ban contact until the kids are 18?
Ask most people who are mid 30's like me and aren't physically able to play, I bet you 90% would love another crack at playing.
You see, Rugby players, like Ice Hockey players, boxers, MMA fighters etc etc, we all know we will get hurt, from minute 1, you KNOW you're getting injured, in fact, footballers know they'll get muscle pulls, cricketers know they're gonna get hit with the ball, it's part and parcel of playing a sport.
My sister teaches keep fit (Vibe-cycle and Vibe-Boxing) and she said to me today she's falling apart, rotator cuff damage, back pain, leg pain.... that's from KEEP FIT.
What people need to understand is, from kids to adults, we make the choice to go and play sports, even as a kid, you know what's gonna hurt and you know there's always a chance you'll be on the shelf. The difference is, anyone who LOVES their sport, will rehab the injury and be back as soon as possible!
Sport is like an addiction. And believe me, if you have that addiction forcibly removed like I did, and countless others who retired injured, that you realise how addictive it is. Whether its the camaraderie or whether it's the game itself, you always miss it.
I read all these reports and newspaper stories written by people who think rugby is too rough for their kids, well, an international cricketer, Phillip Hughes was killed a few months back, Bafitembi Gomis collapsed during a football match a few weeks ago, a jockey was hospitalised after horse racing at Cheltenham this week, Fernando Alonso was hospitalised after a crash in Formula 1, where everything is geared to safety, not to mention Jules Bianchi's horror crash in the same sport last year.....
I have the utmost sympathy for the people in any sport that see their kids, partners, parents, friends, family etc hurt badly or killed in ANY sport, but injuries occur in all sports,it's a fact. I bet even darts or snooker players get RSI or back/arm injuries at some point.
I've been retired for twice as long as I ever played, that's a scary thing, and most careers, or hobbies, of playing sports are desperately short, so my advice is, LET YOUR KIDS PLAY. If they want to play, they don't have a huge window to do it. Do what my parents did, and what my wife and I did with our stepson, support them every time they take the field, share their passion for the sport, and WHEN they get injured, let them decide for themselves whether they want to play when they recover, and if they do, get right back to supporting them.
Mini rant over!