Rugby is becoming 'a sport for freaks'
November 25, 2013
Another one bites the dust ... Francois Louw is carted off the field with a neck injury at Murrayfield © Getty Images
A leading surgeon has expressed his concern at the increasing number of injuries saying that rugby had become "a sport for freaks".
The most serious recent injury came the weekend before last when Italy centre Luca Morisi had his spleen removed after suffering internal injuries during a tough match against Fiji, while England hooker Dylan Hartley was left requiring treatment for a bruised lung after the All Blacks match.
"If this was boxing, we'd be starting to look at the rules," Professor John Fairclough, an orthopaedic specialist who was president of the British Sports Trauma Association, told the Rugby Paper. "I am not an expert on rugby's rules but my view is that somehow or other the game has to acknowledge that the impact at ruck and maul must be reduced.
"It alarms me totally. This is not Rollerball and yet we talk about 'breaking the line'. You can't go round people now. The game we see now is not the game as it used to be."
Fairclough said the area that really concerned him was the ruck. "You cannot just clear people out of the ruck, least of all when they're not looking. That means they're not braced for impact and that's where serious knee injuries occur. There are now so many big men laying behind the scrum that at the highest level it's become a game for those who are physically above and beyond the norm."
He said that the big increase in size of players in the last decade or so was at the root of the problems. "[It was] a sport for all shapes and sizes, then it became a sport for freaks. Look at people like Leigh Halfpenny and Shane Williams. They went from being very quick, very lithe and relatively light to having to bulk up. Look at the amount of injury that Leigh in particular has suffered.
"There is an inevitability that serious injuries will continue to rise. The human body is not meant to take that amount of force. What we're seeing here is the price of sport, not just in terms of what those in sport give up but what happens to their bodies because of it."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
With the deadline for World Cup ticket applications now over, Tom May outlines his hopes, gripes and wishes for next year's global gathering
Floundering Leicester, exquisite Exeter and two old England players tearing up trees - it's the Monday Maul
The latest Week in Pictures takes in the Rugby Championship and all the domestic action from the northern hemisphere
Chris Robshaw talks to Tom Hamilton about mental and physical preparation and coping with pressure ahead of the World Cup