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Tackling in physical education rugby: an unnecessary risk?
  1. Adam John White1,
  2. John Batten2,
  3. Stefan Robinson2,
  4. Eric Anderson2,
  5. Andrew Burns2,
  6. Jo Batey2,
  7. Helen Ryan-Stewart2,
  8. Russell Discombe2
  1. 1 Faculty of Education and Sport, School of Sport and Physical Activity, University of Bedfordshire, Bedford, UK
  2. 2 Department of Sport, Exercise and Health, University of Winchester, Winchester, Hampshire, UK
  1. Correspondence to Adam John White, Faculty of Education and Sport, School of Sport and Physical Activity, University of Bedfordshire, Bedford MK41 9EA, UK; adam.white1{at}

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The call to ban tackling in physical education rugby

Since 2016, we have been strong advocates for the removal of tackling from rugby (League and Union) played in school physical education in the UK.1 This is because (A) tackling is the leading cause of injury in rugby, (B) rugby has a level of risk that is higher than non-contact sports, (C) there is no requirement or need for tackling as part of the school physical education curriculum, and (D) many children are compelled to participate in contact rugby.2 In response to this call, the Chief Medical Officers and the Physical Activity Expert Group commented: ‘The Committee reject the call to ban tackling, as they do not feel rugby participation poses an unacceptable risk of harm.’3 Yet, the notion of risk (un)acceptability is a construct that needs further discussion, which we will start here.4

Risk acceptance

What makes a risk acceptable or not is somewhat contextually subjective.4 Molcho and Pickett, however, have attempted to define some boundaries of unacceptable risk for children. Specifically, they suggest that: ‘the following are deemed non-acceptable: (1) intentional injuries; (2) severe or disabling injuries; (3) injuries …

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