Summit to review GPS neck injuries
CONCERNED Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle has organised a Wednesday summit with Queensland's nine GPS headmasters to review the spate of traumatic neck injuries in school rugby.
Castle will take the angst and emotion of the parents into the meeting because she has spoken personally to three of the four families dealing with the spinal issues.
The meeting is much-needed to address safety concerns around rugby from anxious footy parents and Queensland's large school community.
Nudgee College winger Alexander Clark, 15, last Saturday became the fourth serious neck injury victim in a month after being tackled by two Ipswich Grammar cover defenders as he was scoring a try in the 15Bs.
All four neck injuries have occurred in the GPS rugby competition but with no obvious common theme because only Terrace prop Conor Tweedy's spinal cord injury was caused in a scrum collapse.
"We are in dialogue with the principals of the schools and Queensland rugby to have a meeting we all believe is necessary," Castle said.
"Rugby Australia is doing all we can to support the families and I've personally spoken with three of them and will with Alexander's family when the time is right.
"We are constantly working on measures to make the game safe and when boys and girls are involved you err on the side of safety.
"We have a serious injuries case manager in Queensland involved and collecting all the facts is very important.
"I hate using the word 'process' when we are talking about such personal issues but we want to understand that the processes regarding serious injuries have been followed."
Castle detailed the important steps that had been taken to improve safety in rugby union.
In February, Rugby AU introduced new Size for Age guidelines to enable individual players to be moved into a different age group following an assessment of size.
It means unusually big kids can potentially be moved up an age group or small kids moved down an age group.
It is not just based on physical factors but personal development factors including height, weight, playing experience, fitness and maturity.
At the same time, Rugby AU introduced a blue card system to lead the way in concussion management.
Once a referee shows a schoolboy player a blue card they cannot participate any further in the match and are required to undergo a mandatory medical assessment and then follow a set program before returning to rugby.
"The education process around scrummaging and best-coaching practices is also something rugby is very active in pushing at school-age levels," Castle said.