I’m going to admit it (again). I watch professional wrestling, and I enjoy it. The reason I mention this, is because I’m used to hearing in the professional wrestling arena about career- and life-ending neck injuries. People say wrestling is fake, but the falls, the moves and the injuries (and deaths) are not fake.
Now I read about SA Rugby’s Schalk Burger, who suffered a cervical neck injury with nerve root compression, and I think of Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, Steve Austin, and Shawn Michaels, all who have recently had similar neck injuries, some career-ending. Schalk, like the men I’ve mentioned, will be out for a year at least, recovering from fusion surgery.
The difference between rugby and wrestling is this: we’re not encouraging dangerous high-flying, high-impact, well-choreographed professional wrestling at schools. Sure, wrestling is dangerous, but the participants know it is when they start out. World Wrestling Entertainment has a “don’t try this at home” disclaimer for every television broadcast. Rugby, on the other hand, is forced on boys from the age of 12 and 13, and if you don’t play rugby, you must be gay (or “moffie” in SA parlance). Quite honestly, I’m glad I’m queer. At least I can still walk and run.
The attitude that rugby isn’t dangerous is literally killing people all over the world. The recent rule changes will not change the fact that scrumming and tackling is dangerous and can break your neck. How many more brilliant athletes must be injured? How many more kids must die before something is done about this ridiculous “game”?
I’m no fan of football (the soccer kind), but it’s not as dangerous as rugby. Heck, even American Football isn’t as dangerous as rugby (CTE notwithstanding).
The point is, the game of rugby is extremely dangerous and should be promoted as such at school level. Players must know what they’re getting themselves into. It can be fatal. Soccer players have more chance of being struck by lightning than breaking their necks. Golfers know to get the hell off the links when a storm breaks out. But rugby players are forced into a scrum. They are encouraged to tackle someone. In the wrestling ring, the canvas and wooden floor does absorb a lot of impact when a person falls. A rugby field, in the middle of winter in South Africa, does not.
While I’m on the subject, how about letting our Springboks rest? They should only be playing 6 months in a year. Some players have been going for around 2 years solid. It’s ridiculous. Schalk Burger is your proof.