LONDON (Reuters) - Academics from three UK universities have called for a ban on tackling in rugby among school-aged children after a group of professional players claimed the sport had left them with serious concussion-related health problems.
In an open letter to chief medical officers in the UK, the academics said their request is backed by evidence that links participation in contact sport to early onset dementia.
"We are concerned that in failing to act to protect children from the tackle in the school game and by allowing the sport's governing bodies to decide what, if any, information to collect, the British government is exposing children to significant risk," the letter said.
"We call on you to advise the ministers for education, health and sport in all four nations to remove the tackle from the school game."
The academics from Oxford Brookes University, Newcastle University and the University of Winchester said the schools must look at non-contact alternatives such as touch rugby.
The concerns have been raised after nine former rugby union players joined a legal battle against English and Welsh rugby authorities and World Rugby, claiming negligence over head injuries during their careers.
"Over the last few weeks we have heard the terrible news of ex-professional players who are suffering with the effects of concussions and sub-concussions on their brains," Dr Adam White, lecturer in sport and coaching science at Oxford Brookes University said.
"We must now do everything we can to protect our children from suffering from the same mistakes.
"This is not about removing choice, it is about making informed choice a more central component of children's participation in contact sport."
(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond)