Tue, Apr 20, 2010
The Straits Times
Is rugby headgear necessary?

The recent case of a school rugby player who was admitted to the intensive care unit with head injuries has raised questions on whether there should be greater precautions to protect players on the pitch.

One possible measure is to make protective headgear mandatory for all schools' national competitions.

Studies have shown that head injuries are among the most common in rugby. They account for 25 per cent of all rugby injuries.

Although optional in most countries, protective rugby headgear, called the scrum cap, is mandatory in Japan and for some Canadian teams.

In Australia, there has been a movement to implement such a rule for its junior players.

Although studies have shown that the cap does not reduce the incidence of concussion, it can reduce the severity of injuries and the length of recovery time.

Not everyone in Singapore is convinced that such a move will guarantee a player's safety on the pitch.

Singapore Rugby Union president Low Teo Ping said: 'Safety is always a priority but I'm not sure making headguards compulsory will solve the problem.

'Let's not over-react to this incident.'

Adhe Noviello, 17, the team captain of Bedok Town Secondary, was rushed to the National University Hospital's ICU on March 31 with head injuries after a match against Anglo-Chinese School (Barker Road) in the Schools' National Under-17 tournament.

He had complained of being beaten several times during the match but opted to play on.

He was moved from the ICU to a regular ward last week, but he has difficulty speaking and moving the right side of his body.

The Singapore Schools Sports Council has formed a committee to investigate the incident.

Low believes it is important that all the facts regarding the incident be fully investigated before action is taken.

'We need to find out what was the exact cause of the boy's injuries,' he said.

Matthias Lim, 23, a former St Joseph's Institution prop, said: 'Wearing a headgear does offer some form of cushioning, but it's mostly to prevent cuts and abrasions.'

Added a former combined schools player: 'Considering that it's made mostly out of foam, I'm not sure it will really be that useful.'

Some coaches were also sceptical that this equipment - normally worn by forwards who form the scrum - would provide the necessary protection.

Said one club coach who declined to be named: 'I think it's actually false protection.

'If you tell them to wear this and you'll be safe, some kids will then take more risks and get even worse injuries.'

This article was first published in The Straits Times.

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