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Why rugby players do not wear pads? And what are the risks?


Why Rugby players do not wear pads? And what are the risks? : Injuries, Perspectives from players, and Long term effects Bryce Murray University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Spring 2013

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Introduction: Many people think that American football is the best and most hard hitting sport in the world, but in fact American football will always come in second next to Rugby! In my paper I will be explaining the reason why rugby players do not wear pads or helmets. And also I will talk about the pros to not wearing pads and how the athletes can be faster and more agile. Then I will touch on the cons of not wearing pads and the injuries that could happen and the long term effects on the body from not wearing pads. My personal position on the topic is that everyone who decides to play sports without the proper protection, they should know the risks that are being taken. The way I fit into the figured world is that I play rugby for the university and also I have played football for ten years of my life, so I have good experience in both worlds of having pads and not having pads. For this paper my target audience will be all athletes that are involved in contact sports and outsiders that are possibly interested in the sport of rugby and other sports. The significance of Rugby to me is the because it brings the world together and helps all nations and people of different races come together and share a wonderful game rather than having America being the odd man out by just playing American football while the rest of the world does not. Also they game is played at a non-stop speed unlike football where you stop after every play and take a break, it really tests your athletic ability and mind when you are exhausted. Now I will give you a look at a standard rugby pitch below and labels for the different lines, also I will run through a list of the different terms used in rugby and the different positions.

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Terms: Actions/Positions Scrum- The scrum is both of the opposing teams line up usually less than 5 meters apart with the forwards at the front. When the referee puts the ball in play on the ground between the first line of forwards and both of the teams push against each other to get the ball. Ruck- When a player is running with the ball and is tackled to the ground. The tackled player put the ball on the ground towards their teammates. And usually one or more players run over the ground player and other pushing and fight for the ball. Maul- When a player is in contact with another and is in the process of being tackled but a teammate can come up and push the player being tackled to gain more ground, the number of players that can push are unlimited. Lineout- A lineout is when the ball goes out of bounds whether it is kicked or a player is tackled out of bounds. And a set of eight players line up behind each other on each team separated by five meters from each other. And out of bounds one player throws the ball in while another player is lifted into the air to catch the ball by a front and back lifter. Try- Simply a try is when a player crosses the try line and touches the ball on the ground. This is where football got the concept touchdown from.

Comment [B1]: Explain all of the positions, such as eightman, prop, flanker and hooker.

Comment [B2]: Explain what the picture is, because most people wont know.

Forwards- These are the biggest and strongest guys on the team and they are the main guys running into rucks and the front line in scrums. Kind of like the lineman in football. Backs- The backs are usually the fastest guys on the team and they are known to get more tries than the big guys up front.

Comment [B3]: Put the picture before the definitions.

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Scrum half- The scrum half is the leader of the team and is the one who handles the ball, also he is the one who calls the different plays. Wings- Wings are the fastest players on the team and most agile, because in order to score they need to have breakaway speed but at the same time they have to be able to make adjustments while running. Fullback- Fullbacks main jobs are to make sure nobody from the opposing team breaks away to score and the provide support to the wings. Fly Half- The fly half is the first person the scrum half throws the ball to on a lineout or scrum, in hope that he can break for an easy try. Centre- They are just support/attack players that enter rucks on the outside when the wings are tackled or they need someone to pass to.

Literature Review: Rugby Injuries Just as MD Lyle J Micheli said in his article You can get injured playing any sport, rugby just has a higher rate of injuries just like American football (Micheli 2011). The most common injuries in the Rugby Union are shoulder injuries, dead leg, ankles (broken or sprained), and concussions. These injuries particularly have long term effects on the players, for instance one of Englands ex-captains claimed after his career his shoulders were so torn up from the various injuries to them, he claimed that he could not even lift his baby daughter out of here crib. Now dead leg is kind of a taboo injury because its not really known in a lot of sports, but it is popular in soccer and rugby because both players do not wear pads on their legs. And they are always at risk of dead leg because when the players collide they are always running towards each other at full speed and someones knee can spearhead into a thigh or hamstring. Dead leg is when a direct sharp impact hits the players thigh in the four quad muscles used for running and walking. When a player gets dead leg it is possible but very painful for them to walk on it so it is very common for them to walk with the assistance of crutches.

Comment [B4]: Put the definition of dead leg at the beginning of the paragraph or explain it more so it can stand out. Comment [B5]: Add captions for the muscles and describe why this would affect play if you got dead leg.

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When treating dead leg players follow the rule of R.I.C.E which is relax, ice, compress and elevate. Another popular injury in rugby and all other sports played around the world are concussions, recently in this new age concussions having really come to the forefront of the sports world and remedies to treat them or prevent them has highly involved. Just like in football, Rugby players of all levels are learning to tackle the safe way instead of launching their body into others. In rugby players follow the five Rs which are recognize, remove, refer, recover and return. Ankle are known as career ending injuries cause the ankles are a very important body part for any athlete no matter the sport cause it effects the way the athletes moves. When a rugby player injuries their ankle it is usually a fracture or break because players are thought to tackle low so this may be the reason players are cut tackled. Depending on your size and the size of the tackling player they will be cut tackled, cut tackling is when you dive to take out a players legs from under him.

My Position as a player As a player of both football and rugby I feel like I have a good opinion of both sports safety. When I played football from middle school to college, I have never suffered from a concussion, dead leg, or ankle sprain. But now that I am playing rugby I have suffered from one mild concussion, high ankle sprain and sore shoulders from time to time. When I suffered from the concussion it happened when I was running the ball and my head came in contact with a teammates knee. But treating my concussion went the same way how I would have treated it if it happened if I was still playing football. In football I would had defiantly sat out for a couple weeks with my ankle sprain but rugby really thought me how to be tougher than football has. As for shoulder soreness, I have had that since I played football back in high school but since rugby it has gotten slightly worse because of all of the rucks, tackles and scrums. Now ever since I got to college at UNCC and stopped playing football and picked up rugby, I can truly say that being football fit and rugby fit are totally two different things. In football I would just have to do my job for long as three seconds or five depending on the play. But in rugby your job is never done and it is non-stop play. In football I was use to making a tackle and jogging back to the huddle or getting to the sidelines and getting a breather. Also since I having been playing rugby I am in way better shape than when I was playing football. I am able to run faster and my endurance has increased. In the spring is when I plan on trying out for the football team and I think that I am going to be able to last longer in the physical aspect of the tryouts rather than guys who have just been lifting weights. I use to have the mindset that football was the best sport in the world and I was one of the dominant guys on my teammate, but now I have to learn the rules of rugby and now I am set back to the bottom on the food chain in a way. I can defiantly say that rugby is a mans game and in order to play you have to be tougher than any of sport, as for injuries it just comes with the territory to me. I feel like if you decide to play rugby or any contact sport you know what you are signing up for so when you get hurt you have nobody to blame but yourself.

Comment [B6]: Explain how your mind state changed when you switched from football to rugby.

Comment [B7]: As a whole go over the paper for grammar mistakes.

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Entering the Conversation: Thought I have spent a great deal of time defending my thoughts as a player on the danger level of rugby. I felt that my thoughts are very similar to other players in the game, But by doing this paper I hope to reconstruct my thoughts and re-educate myself on how really safe my sport is and end up being in the middle of the argument to the point where I can understand both sides. A solution to the argument I feel would be to educate players and people about the dangers but at the same time teach them how to play safely. In order to re-educate myself and others I will explain ideas and purposes from some of my sources. Halldorson, Beth (2006), in the following video Halldorson goes into great detail of how the game is played and the rules of each phase. She starts off by explaining the basics like player positions and responsibility, kickoff and passing. Halldorson also breaks down the safe way to tackle opposing players. Then later she goes into rucks, scrums, and mauls. I felt like this video gives a great visual because it actually shows the motions players take on the field when passing, and entering contact safely with each other is the best way to introduce this game to someone who has never experienced or seen a rugby game played. Kervin, A (2011), in this article Kervin explains the dangers of not wearing hardly to no protection in rugby. He explains that all of the head of collisions in the game have been linked to early onset dementia in ex-players. Dementia is caused by many impacts to the brain and causes the person to become forgetful when living everyday life. Kervin also gets a testimony from the former England captain Phil Vickery who claims that now he is retired the injuries he suffered while playing have affected his life long after retirement, Vickery claims that dementia has set in and bodily injuries have affected his everyday life like playing with his kids and caused him to be addicted to pain pills just so he can get up out of bed. Another testimony is from Springbok coach Steven Covain, he talks about how players prefer to not wear pads because of the mindset that they are expected to be tough and play through pain. I agree with Kervin that the long term effects of playing rugby may not be worth it in the future but I would try my best to recover properly from any injury I sustain. Micheli, Lyle J MD (2011), Micheli talks about how athletes can get injured and any sports they play not just contact sports like rugby and football. She uses an example of a rugby player that ran cross country, the player played for his high school and was never injured while playing but when he ran a cross country race the next semester he tripped and broke his arm. Micheli explains that the reason people think rugby is dangerous, is because they see the face paced running, hitting, and various times when players smash into each other without any protection especially around the head area. This is really taboo to Americans because we are used to watching the NFL where players are fully protected and do not just run into defenders on purpose. I definalty agree with micheli because I feel that when people see a rugby pitch they just see guys without pads smashing into each other and blindside hits. Pells. E (2010), In this article Pells explain how not wearing pads makes rugby players safer because they play more cautiously rather than the NFL where players wear pads that are like a suit of armor and develop the superman effect. The superman effect is when players feel like they cannot be hurt or just throw caution to the wind and launch themselves at each other not thinking about the safety of the man they hit. While rugby
Comment [B8]: Introduce the sources better.

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players play with a bit more caution because they know that each time they enter contact they could get seriously injured. Conclusion: As you have seen in this narrative research paper, while not wearing pads my put players in danger more than usual and the risk is high. But at the same time it can also benefit the players by making them play safer and watch out for others to a certain extent. Im sure if everyone that plays rugby or any other sport will become educated on how to play safely and the right way. Especially in sports that involve tackling like American football and rugby, its impor tant to teach the old and younger generations in these games the correct way to tackle rather than the players ending up with concussions or even paralyzed. But at the same time hopefully people will realize that you can be hurt playing any sports no matter if it is contact or no contact.

Comment [B9]: Elaborate on your opinion.

Comment [B10]: Expand more at the conclusion and answer the questions from the example.

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References 1. (

This website is all about giving the early history and a timeline of defining moments in the history of rugby, dating back to the 1800s. A country is known to put together a all of the best players from various teams to form a Union for the whole country so they can compete on a global scale for the Rugby world cup. Also many people may not know that when you score in rugby, unlike football it is called and try and when players cross the try line they must place the ball on the ground before it is counted as a score. This article really helps me know what important parts to research in my paper at the same time know which parts of the game to explain more, that a regular person who has never played the game would want to know.

2. Micheli, Lyle J MD (2011). Is Rugby Safe? Retrieved October, 1, 2013 from ( This article written by MD Lyle Micheli, explains how rugby is not as dangerous as some people may think, in the first part of the article Micheli starts off by saying how a young man broke his arm playing rugby but a year before he broke his arm simply running cross country. The point of this analogy is to say that you can get hurt playing any sport not just contact sports. This article gives me a better idea of understanding that you can get injuried playing any sport not just contact sports. 3. (

This website gives a whole over view of rugby as a sport and lets people see how many different teams there are in the world, and also get a chance to see that America also has a national team. There is also a concussion safety section on the website that tells players how to deal with concussion by following the five Rs. Which are Recognize, Remove, Refer, Recover and Return. This website helps me by allowing me to view inside information about my favorite teams and players, and different organizations that are involved with rugby.



This is a great website to find in depth articles on any kind of sports injury and any other injuries non-sports related. When I looked an article on rugby injuries the number one this was the cause of early dementia, dementia is an injury to the brain that causes people to have trouble with memory. This website really helps me do research on my topic by introducing me to different articles written by different authors.

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5. Kervin, A (2011). Tackling rugby safety issues head-on Retrieved October 2, 2013, from

This article explains how the popularity of rugby is growing around the world but at the same time it is growing with more concerns for player safety. As an example, kervin uses the excaptain of England Phil Vickery, vickery suffered so many injuries during his career that when he retired he couldnt even pick up his baby daughter from his shoulder injuries. This article helps me because its gives good examples and gives players feelings on rugby safety. 6. (

This is a very good article for people that do not know anything about rugby and how it is played. This article gives many definitions on different aspects of the game but the most important thing to me is what exactly a try is. A try is when you score by running across the goal line and placing the ball on the ground. This is a great article for me to use because I can use all the rules and explain them.


This website helps by telling people how to prevent rugby injuries and how to play safe. It states that the most common time when players get injured is when they enter a scrum or ruck. A ruck is when a player is tackled and other players run to the ball and push each other away to win the ball on the ground and a scrum is the same thing but this only when the ball in knocked out of bounds. This is a downloadable article so this is very convenient for me to use.

8. Lee, MC (2013). What do Rugby players wear? Retrieved October 2, 2013 from

This article by MC Lee explains what equipment rugby players wear, for example scrum caps, mouthpieces, and sometimes light padded shirts. Many players only decide to wear mouthpieces and nothing else for protection; this toughness is referred to as the superman effect. The superman effect is a mental attitude that players get when believe they a stronger, faster and able to become numb to pain. This article will help me explain why some rugby players choose not to wear pads.

9. Pells. E (2010). In rugby lack of pads keeps players safer. Retrieved October 2, 2013 from

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This article talks about how players feel about wearing pads and comparing the safety differences to the NFL. Once again this article talks about the superman effect and how it relates to player that wear pads and how they turn into padded projectiles. This gives a good insight on why football and rugby are on the same level of danger. 10. Halldorson, Beth (2006).

This video I found on YouTube is a great video because it gives well in depth look at how the game is played. This video lets you look at how players engage into rucks and scrums, also how the different positions move on the field. I feel this well be a good resource for people who are not familiar with the game or not sure about all of the rules.