Young rugby players should be barred from the front row of rugby scrums unless they meet medical guidelines, according to a report by researchers at Edinburgh University.
Their research suggests that under-18s need to have their neck strength tested to see if they can safely withstand the force of a scrum before being allowed into the front row.
The study believes that scrums are responsible for a number of spinal injuries to players and the Scottish Rugby Union (SRU) has already introduced the tests this rugby season.
Researchers tested the physical strength of adult players from amateur leagues and high performance under-18 front row players – looking at the players’ neck strength and fatigue endurance.
They found that despite under-18 players looking physically strong and able, reduced levels of body strength and fatigue endurance put them at a greater risk of injury.
Hamish Simpson, professor of orthopaedic surgery at Edinburgh University and a consultant orthopaedic surgeon said: “Our results showed that although under-18 players were as strong as the adults in general, they were unable to generate the same neck muscle force as adult players. said: “Our results showed that although under-18 players were as strong as the adults, in general they were unable to generate the same neck muscle force as adult players.
“It is likely that weak necks are a risk factor for the scrum collapsing – an event associated with serious neck injury risk.”
He added: “To ensure the safety of all six front row players, it is essential that they are all strong enough to compete safely.”