Tests raise concerns about young forwards
ESPN Staff
May 15, 2014
Boys playing rugby in the former ballroom of the fashionable Wellington Rooms. Stella Baker, warden of the Rodney Youth Centre, plays scrum-half, London, March 5, 1949
Not every schoolboy is ready for adult rugby © Getty Images
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Seventeen-year-olds should be banned from the front row of rugby scrums in men's matches unless properly tested, according to a study carried out by the University of Edinburgh.

Scientists tested the neck strengths of adult players and those under 18, concentrating on neck strength and fatigue endurance. The results showed that only two of the 30 under 18s had the average neck strength of an adult.

The front row of the scrum places considerable pressures on the backs and necks of those involved and the report recommended young players undergo tests to assess their neck strength before being allowed to play. This policy has been adopted by the Scottish board for the past year.

"It is likely that weak necks are a risk factor for the scrum collapsing, an event associated with serious neck injury risk," Hamish Simpson, professor of orthopaedic surgery at the University of Edinburgh, said. "To ensure the safety of all six front row players, it is essential that they are all strong enough to compete safely."

While improved training and nutrition has resulted in bigger and fitter young players, some areas of development can only be improved by natural maturity. These tests are intended to help identify when a player has reached that point.

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