Rugby is a tough sport, but the modern game has improved safety in such a dramatic way that NFL teams are taking notice.

Player safety is the top priority of our coaching staff. High school rugby should be a fun experience, and there’s no excuse for putting a child’s safety and quality of life at risk in order to win a game at any level.

While there is a stigma about rugby being a dangerous sport, much of the real dirty play was removed from the game decades ago, and federations from all nations are working to ensure player safety. USA Rugby forces their coaches at every level to complete a concussion safety program.

Alex Werra talks with a trainer after bruising her knee in a game against Kettle Moraine.

Rugby is different than American football in that one must wrap up a player when they attempt to tackle them. Tuning into American football, one could see players violently and recklessly throwing their bodies into their opponents on almost every play. This kind of tackling is banned in rugby. In fact, some are offering “rugby tackling” as a solution to the NFL’s concussion problem. Pete Carroll coached the Seattle Seahawks to multiple Super Bowls by implementing a rugby-style tackling system designed to improve player safety. While concussions increased in the NFL, both Seattle and Atlanta (teams that used rugby tackling) saw their concussion numbers dip below the NFL average (PBS Frontline). Also, it is worth noting that blocking is not allowed in rugby, which is another common way players get injured in American football.

Because of the rules in place and skill set seen at the high school level, it is important to note that a lot of rugby’s “violent reputation” comes from misattributing the type of play at the professional level to the type of play seen at the high school level. High school players get injured at half the rate of professionals (Palmer-Green et. al, 2009). Just like in every other sport, women playing rugby are more likely to suffer a concussion or knee injury than their male counterpart; although, they are less likely to suffer a fracture (Peck, 2013). That being said, sprains and strains remain the most common injury in the sport with concussions only making up 5-15% of the injuries sustained while playing (Palmer-Green et. al, 2009). Be advised that all student athletes at Hamilton receive baseline concussion testing and will be put through the “concussion protocol” with an athletic trainer if they sustain a head injury.

All that being said, we will still see injuries in this sport, and we will have an athletic trainer on hand at every game because of it. By teaching the girls proper technique and by putting player safety before team results, we may not be able to avoid injuries in this sport, but we can do a lot to limit the severity of those injuries.