Rugby players of all ages, levels and backgrounds are getting faster, stronger and the game itself increasingly attritional. As the rugby world reacts to a string of retirements, whether it be those of Sam Warburton, David Pocock (from Super Rugby at least) or Rob Horne, questions are inevitably being asked about the nature of our sport, and where rugby is heading. But these questions must be extended beyond Twickenham and Eden Park, to local clubs throughout the rugby community. As a result of these changes, insurance at grassroots levels is becoming ever more important. (For more information regarding insurance, click here)
Pocock, just 31, and Warburton, at only 29, decided that they were unable to justify the continual risk to their health and well-being. This is a shocking, and relatively recent, development. However, for them, this decision, as difficult as it may have been, follows two distinguished and celebrated careers. They are considered two of the greatest flankers of their generation, with perhaps only Richie McCaw and Thierry Dusautoir even justifying entry into that same conversation. The case study of Rob Horne provides another interesting insight into the potential threats to player welfare. Named vice-captain of Australia in 2016, his career was cut short in the most horrifying fashion early last year, following an injury to his right shoulder that left his entire arm paralysed.
But what about those players without access to extensive and regular medical treatment? The normal, dedicated, amateur player, who perhaps balances their sport with commitments to education, employment or family, and could potentially be left exposed by such an incident?
On average, the weight of players has increased two stone since the game turned professional in 1995, and over the last twenty-five years the size of players has increased three times faster than that of the wider male community. Whether it is back-line moves, fashion statements or size, changes that occur at the professional level inevitably trickle down through the playing system.
It is thought that school age players are the most exposed to injury: 70% of all competing at 1st and 2nd XV level have experienced one form of serious injury or another. Following that, those aged 25 – 34 are most prone, players most likely to be at the peak of their physical and playing capacity. But this is the generation also most likely to have commitments extending beyond a Saturday afternoon at the local club.
Injuries are three times more likely to occur on an amateur rugby pitch than a football one. Physicality is part of the game, and undoubtedly also part of what makes it special (and far superior to football). It is what draws over 5 million people from over 120 different countries to play week in week out. But the risks are there, anyone who has played the modern game knows this, and so injury insurance is growing ever more vital.
For information regarding insurance, click here.
Written by Joe Ronan