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Rugby Union's Matt Hampson calls for better safety in grass roots rugby

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Former Rugby Union player Matt Hampson has called for new measures to improve safety for players of the grass roots game.

Matt, 37, who started playing for Oakham as a child and was paralysed while practising with the England under-21s, would like coaches to have better knowledge of the types of injuries that can be sustained by players, and the types of forces their bodies are exposed to.

He said: “Coaches at all levels need knowledge of the different forces that apply in tackles, scrums and mauls, and referees also need better understanding of the technical side of what is happening to players on the pitch.

Matt Hampson. Photo: Matt Hampson Foundation
Matt Hampson. Photo: Matt Hampson Foundation

“You cannot have a doctor on standby at every grass roots practice session or game, but each rugby club could have a designated person who has knowledge of what to do in case of a traumatic injury, and protocols in place.

“When children get into full contact rugby at about the age of 12, the game becomes more dangerous.”

The sport’s governing body, the RFU, agrees that good awareness and training is all-important for the safety of the game.

A spokesman for the RFU said: “Prevention is often better than cure, which is why we encourage players and coaches to integrate the RFU’s Activate injury prevention exercise programme into all training and pre-match sessions.

“Exercises are designed to improve functional and core strength, balance and agility, helping players with the game’s physical demands.”

The Activate programme has schemes for under 12s, under 18s and adults, and the RFU also recommends all coaches and referees refresh their skills regularly.

Anyone taking a coaching or refereeing award for the first time is required to complete a ‘Headcase’ course focusing on head injuries.

Barbara Crellin, safeguarding officer for Oakham Rugby Club, said at senior level they have a qualified physio on hand at training and matches, with juniors having a fully qualified first aider present.

"We follow RFU guidelines," she added. "We also follow the Headcase guidance for concussion, which advises on taking time out and returning to play, we notify the RFU if anyone is hospitalised and anything beyond a scratch or minor bump is recorded."

Matt Hampson collected his OBE from Princess Anne at Windsor Castle on Wednesday last week (February 9).

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