The International Sports Sciences Forum (ISSF, iss-forum.net) today called on Federal and State governments and Rugby’s governing bodies to ensure a ban on head-high tackles – neck and head contact – was a key clause in Australia’s bid for 2027 Rugby World Cup.
Supporting the bid, ISSF Founder and General Convener, Enrique TOPO Rodriguez, said all parties must live up to their claim of the bid being ‘maximum revenue, minimum risk’.
“This ‘minimum risk’ must extend to the safety of the players and changing the rules around head-high contact,” he said. “We cannot justify a bid where the current rules are inadequate to the health and wellbeing of the players. The governing bodies and governments will be negligent in their responsibilities.”
Mr. Rodriguez is a former international Rugby Union player who represented his native Argentina, South America, Tahiti, and subsequently Australia. He played 26 Tests for the Wallabies between 1984 and 87, including the 1987 World Cup, also Australian Captain in the Tour Argentina Oct-Nov 1987.
“It is medically proven that ‘there is no such thing as a safe, violent blow to the head’,” he said.
The ISSF has called for a radical overhaul of the Laws and Rules of every sport associated with concussion risks. It believes contact sport should be the starting point of the changes, and extended to other perceived non-contact sports, such as basketball and volleyball which have been proven to affect players when their heads make contact with the ground, or a loose ball hitting the unsuspecting athletes. (Ref. USA Volleyball, Hayley Hodson https://www.latimes.com/sports/story/2020-12-08/stanford-volleyball-hayley-hodson-concussions-cte-lawsuit)
World Rugby will announce the successful host candidate for the 2027 Rugby World Cup in May 2022. Mr. Rodriguez agreed with Rugby Australia’s bid that Rugby World Cup 2027 was a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Australia to drive substantial economic outcomes for the nation and to provide a ‘legacy’ for Rugby in the Pacific region.
He also said 2027 Bid Advisory Board Chairman, Sir Rod Eddington, was correct in highlighting that the event being a significant moment for Australia on the world stage and for the Australian economy.
“However, we cannot let this euphoria outweigh the obligations of the game’s ruling bodies and governments to the health and wellbeing of the players. Australia has a golden opportunity of setting the pace and lead the necessary changes which will look after the Athletes and the Business of Sport in a smarter and longer-term fashion”, he said.
“Our bid must include specific requests to World Rugby for a thorough review of the Laws and Rules, addressing all conflictive and problematic areas. There are many. I can assure you the general complexion and spirit of the game will not change, but safety will for the better.
“The proposed changes will set the stage for the future of the game and players. The current concussion policies of most codes are dealing with the issue at the wrong end of the health spectrum. Policies need to be in place to prevent concussion and spinal injuries (from juniors up), not just treat the issue after it has occurred.”
The ISSF has more than 120 leading doctors, neurologists, psychiatrists, biomechanics, businesspeople, politicians, and players from over 16 countries and five (5) continents behind its ‘call’ to government and sports administrators to ‘rewrite’ the playing rules on high tackles, and other ‘unsafe practices’.
It also wants measures in place for all ‘preventable’ injuries, and/or illnesses occurring while athletes are practising and preparing for games – whether the athlete is paid or non-paid.