THE BLOG

Should We Encourage Our Children to Take Up Dangerous Sports?

01/05/2015 10:06 BST | Updated 30/06/2015 10:59 BST

Plans by the Rugby Football Union (RFU), backed by the Culture Minister, to encourage participation in school rugby have been met with a strong reaction from the medical fraternity concerned about the risks to children of contact sports.

Doctors, represented by Professor Allyson Pollock at Queen Mary University of London, stopped short of calling for an outright ban, but their words are likely to fuel the increasing trend for parents to stop their children taking part in 'risky' sports such as rugby, horse riding and hockey.

It's true that the risks are very real in sports like rugby. In both my personal and professional life I have seen the traumatic effects of serious spinal injuries caused by playing contact sports first hand. Also, as someone who has too suffered a spinal injury - not through playing sport I should add - I certainly understand the full impact such injuries can have on people's lives.

A good friend of mine broke his neck and was left paralysed at the age of 16 as a result of a rugby injury and went on to win a landmark legal case against the officials that failed to adequately protect him during the game. Having closely witnessed the devastating effects that the sport had on him and his family it made me think very deeply about rugby and its safety issues - especially for children. I now fully appreciate the efforts by medical experts (which are being listened to carefully by the RFU) to add greater protections to the sport and I'd like this to continue.

However, that said, none of these factors have quenched my love of the game, nor have they stopped me supporting my son's wish to play for our local under-6s side.

This may seem an odd view given my personal experiences, but a career as a lawyer spent confronting the effects of serious injury has shown me the importance of not living in fear of what the future might hold.

If we wrap ourselves or our children up in cotton wool and remove the risks from our world, we will have a life half lived.

The lessons taking physical risks teach us about ourselves and others - and the sheer exhilaration - are worth the risk. What's more, in my opinion, the social and physical benefits of playing team sports outweigh the small risks of serious injury. Sports such as rugby are so important for teaching children and young people about leadership, teamwork, socialising and there are physical and emotional benefits involved too.

I applaud the efforts of the RFU to put sensible safeguards in place but would encourage parents to learn more about these protections before discouraging children from learning the joys such sports can bring.

For more information, please visit www.fletcherssolicitors.co.uk