Doctor hits out at rugby's 'dreadful toll'

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The Independent Online
AT LEAST 52 people in Britain who are paralysed from the neck down suffered their injuries while playing rugby union, according to new research.

Twelve were injured during the past five years, said Dr Anne Savage, who based her figures on work carried out while she was medical adviser to a charity for tetraplegics.

"The figures are nowhere near complete," she said in a letter in yesterday's British Medical Journal. "The Nineties are only half run and many of those injured are still in injuries centres."

After analysing the charity's records, she said, she found that out of 98 cases, 52 sustained their injuries while playing rugby. More than half of the 52 were injured during the Eighties.

Twenty-two of the victims were injured after rule changes in 1985 that were designed to prevent damage in scrums. However, most of the more recent injuries were sustained in other situations.

"These are devastating accidents for those who would otherwise have had a promising future," wrote Dr Savage. "Of the 52 patients, 35 were 25 years old or under at the time of the injury.

"Tetraplegic people live under constant threat of pressure sores, urinary infections and rejection by society," she added. "Rugby, I am told, is a great game. It is certainly a profitable one, but it extracts a dreadful toll from some."