Editorial: Shoulder charge ban in league right thing to do

Reaction from hardmen of game who haven't read the research is dumbfounding.

Sonny Bill Williams. Photo / Supplied
Sonny Bill Williams. Photo / Supplied

Not too many league players have taken much notice of the latest medical research into the long-term neurological effect of repeated concussions. That much is obvious from their dumbfounding reaction to the NRL's decision to outlaw shoulder charges.

A specially formed committee's view that the practice poses an "unacceptable injury risk" and support for a ban from all 16 teams' doctors cut little ice with many of the Australian league's hardmen.

Sonny Bill Williams' gung-ho response was typical. "This is league, not tiddlywinks," he complained.

Williams and others sharing this belief need to study cases such as that of Mike Webster, an American footballer whose brain matter indicated a link between head injuries and degenerative brain injuries. Or, closer to home, the long-term impact of repeated concussions on the likes of former All Black halfback Steve Devine.

League and rugby are games in which players are inherently exposed to head injury - and this threat must be mitigated as far as possible.

Contrary to the claims of the players, the Australian competition will not become less of a spectacle because of the absence of shoulder charges. The game prospered before their introduction and will hardly notice their passing. It has survived perfectly well in New Zealand since the practice was banished in the mid-1990s. Shoulder charges are a very small part of the game, but pose an inordinate risk to the safety of players. They have no place in league.

- NZ Herald

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