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Parliamentary Note

To Minister of Sports

Parliament House

Australia

Use of Protective Gear in Australian Sports (Rugby)

            Sports may be a rich source of income for many countries globally as well as a recreational activity but, nonetheless, sports have recently resulted in most casualty cases reported in major hospitals globally. Despite the shocking revelations, numerous sports governing bodies at the managerial and government levels are still ignorant of the dangers and implications of sport-related injuries (MacAuley & Best, 2007). The “Australian sports injury hospitalizations” report of 2011–12 shows that approximately 36,000 people of ages 15 and above were hospitalized due to injuries sustained while engaging in various kinds of sport. The number translates into an estimated time of 79,000 days spent in hospital while recuperating from these injuries (Dickson & Gray, 2012). Thus, the use of protective gear should not be voluntary, but a necessity for engaging in sporting activities.

            According to the “Australian sports injury hospitalizations” report, nearly one-third of all reported cases of sports-related injury hospitalizations were linked to playing numerous codes of football. The Australian population participates in a repertoire of sporting activities that may include rugby, water sports, roller sports, football, combative sports, wheeled motor sports, netball, and basketball (MacAuley & Best, 2007). It is coherent that sport-related injuries are likely to be rampant in the country. Water and motor-based sports contributed to a substantial number of hospitalizations. Together, the sports accounted for 47% of admissions, almost a half of all cases. Soccer and Rules football recorded the greatest population-based age-standardized cases of sports injury hospitalization; 17 and 18 cases for every 100,000 population, correspondingly (Dickson & Gray, 2012).

            Team sport is not only a pleasurable activity but also provides a myriad of precious benefits. Players engaging in sports grow personally, physically, economically and socially. Aside from the aforementioned numerous advantages, the corresponding costs are disheartening (Dickson & Gray, 2012). Despite the strict norms and regulations applied in all contact sports in Australia, the risk of sustaining sport-related injuries like concussions cannot be prevented entirely. Rugby is a common sub-category of football in Australia with the highest related cases of concussion. Such injuries constitute growing concerns, especially in the contact sport.

            The injuries arising from players engaging in Rugby, as a sport, were 2,621. The proportion reflects a 7% contribution to the overall cases of sport-related injuries in 2011–12. By all accounts, the percentage is too large for one single sport. Consequently, the alarming heightening in the casualties of Rugby calls for bold steps towards ensuring the safety of players and sustainability of the game. Young men are the principal participants of Rugby in Australia. The deduction arises from the sex and age profile of the cases of sports injury-related hospitalizations (Dickson & Gray, 2012). As such, 90% of the reported incidents were persons aged below 35 years. Moreover, 96% of patients convalescing from injuries sustained while playing Rugby were males. The facts create an awkward ambiance for government institutions and other shareholders since the economy relies on the productivity of the youthful population (Petraglia et al, 2015).

            Based on population, the rates of sport-related injuries were 20 cases for every 100,000 males while, for females, the rates were 1.2 for every 100,000 of their kind for all ages. Nevertheless, age-specific rates are quite greater for younger men as compared to their female counterparts. Young men aged between 15-17 years recorded the highest age-specific rates; surpassing men aged 18-24 (Petraglia et al, 2015). As it appears, a majority of young men engages in Rugby and is more likely to sustain injuries. Partly, this can be attributed to carelessness and lack of observance of the rules of safety of the game. Nonetheless, the governing bodies should be accountable through ensuring that people engaging in Rugby wear safety guards, for instance, mouth guards.

            In order to make appropriate recommendations on the types of protective guards to wear, a critical analysis of the modes of injuries is necessary. As reported in 2011-12 report, fractures are the most common kind of harm sustained while playing Rugby and accounts for 54% of the total injuries. The grave results of intracranial injury contributed to 6% of cases. Fractures most often occurred around the hand and wrist (23%), the head (one-quarter), and the knee and lower leg (26%). The knowledge of the types of injuries sustained allows the formulation of potential protective gears for rugby players (Petraglia et al, 2015).

            Rugby falls in the category of the most aggressive contact sports. Disparate to other contact sports, for instance, football, rugby players wear very less gear. Rugby players, internationally, wear same kinds of protective equipment. They wear only mouth shields and cleats with no pads or helmets (Doral, 2012). Perhaps the gears might play a cultural or functional role. Nonetheless, these gears are not sufficient for ensuring the safety of players. Protective equipment currently entails an array of items that may not be affordable to every rugby player, but widely available. Empirical studies into Australian Rugby have shown that 327 female and male ruggers utilize unique forms of protective gadgets other than just the taping of joints and mouth guards. The proportion represents approximately 15% of the total number of ruggers (McDuff, 2012).

            Protective gadgets are significant in maintaining the safety of players. Nevertheless, the use of such equipment attracts varied disadvantages. Top of all is the possibility of disease transmissions. Sharing of protective equipment is a common trend in many rugby teams. The hygienic implications are gross as they may cause diseases like bacterial strains, fungi, and leg cellulitis (Doral, 2012). Furthermore, players portray a negative attitude towards the use of mouth guards and other devices because of the discomfort they cause. Overall, it is more beneficial to wear protective equipment for all ruggers in different sporting levels.

            Based on the aforementioned research findings, three worthy recommendations for consideration are:

  1. The Australian government, through its sports ministry, should stipulate clearly outlined regulations regarding the mandatory use of protective gears for every rugby activity regardless of age levels, sex or team.
  2. The Australian government should offer subsidies for the various rugby teams for acquiring the varied kinds of protective guards and furthermore fund rugby teams that cannot afford such gears.
  3. The Australian government should enforce the use of specialized models of IRB-approved headgears with increased thickness and foam density, which possess enhanced comfort and protection capabilities.

References

Dickson, T. J., & Gray, T. (2012). Risk management in the outdoors: A whole-of-organisation approach for education, sport and recreation. Port Melbourne, Vic: Cambridge University Press.

Doral, M. N. (2012). Sports injuries: Prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation. Berlin: Springer.

MacAuley, D., & Best, T. (2007). Evidence-Based Sports Medicine. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.

McDuff, D. R. (2012). Sports psychiatry: Strategies for life balance and peak performance. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Pub.

Petraglia, A. L., Bailes, J. E., & Day, A. L. (2015). Handbook of neurological sports medicine.