Education the key to getting league players to give dangerous tackles the spear

GROUP 10 president Linore Zamparini believes education, not a full-blown ban of the lifting tackle, is the key to ensuring rugby league players in the central west aren’t tragically subjected to the same fate as Newcastle Knights backrower Alex McKinnon.

In light of devastating reports the 22-year-old Knight has been diagnosed as a quadriplegic, Sports Medicine Australia (SMA) has called for a ban on the lift tackle across all football codes.

Defining a lift tackle as any tackle where a player’s legs are lifted off the ground and their body inverted placing them at risk of significant head or spinal injury, SMA chief executive officer Nello Marino said McKinnon’s case highlights how critical safety in sport is at an elite and local level.

“The fundamental message is that safety is paramount,” Marino said.

“Whether it is at an elite level or a local club, there needs to be consistency across all sporting codes both from a rules perspective and in regards to ensuring all personnel responsible for player welfare are adequately trained, qualified and up to date with the latest safety guidelines.

“The only way we are going to see less of these types of terrible accidents will be to make safety the priority when making rules or considering rule changes. A ban on the lift tackle reflects this.”

Happy the safety of the competition’s players was at the forefront of every call made by Group 10, Zamparini said now wasn’t the time for any rash decision making.

“It’s no good there being a knee-jerk reaction by us,” Zamparini said.

“People much higher up the chain will make these decisions and from there we’ll adopt them and recommend them to the clubs. But at the moment officials, players, referees, we all need to take a bit of responsibility and be aware of the consequences.

“Education is important. Players, trainers, referees, officials ... everyone needs to be a bit more conscious of what can happen if you lift someone between the legs.”

Junior rugby league in the region already adopts a zero lifting tackle policy through its safe play code of conduct.

Any sign of a players leg or legs in the air is a mandatory penalty from under 6s through to under 15s.

Zamparini said lifting that rule into senior football was an option, but admitted it’d take time for such a stance to be widely adopted.

Agreeing education of “adequately qualified personnel” was crucial particularly in amateur sport, leading sports physician Dr Peter Larkins backed the calls to ban the lifting tackle.

“Tackles such as the lift tackle place players at huge risk of sustaining serious damage to their head and spine,” Larkins said.

“We would strongly urge all elite and local football codes where tackles like this are used to consider banning them to prevent further tragic accidents like that of Alex McKinnon.”

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