Scrum Down

A few weeks ago, reports in the media quoted a study by doctors suggesting that eating a couple of rashers of bacon was as hazardous to health as smoking cigarettes. The problem with such reports, and indeed such studies, is that buried deep inside them there is usually a grain of truth. Whether the hyperbole is the responsibility of loose talk by the doctors, or sensationalism by the journalists covering the subject, is often hard to tell.

Suffice to say that giving up smoking was easily one of the better decisions of my life. Anything that makes people cough like that, and turn their phlegm black, clearly cannot be good for them and it hardly needs a doctor to say so. Less sure about the bacon though. A few rashers a couple of times a week doesn’t seem life threatening. Like most people I concluded that bacon needed to be seen in the context of your overall diet and indeed lifestyle. Eat large amounts of bacon every day, do no exercise, lead a sedentary life, well yes I guess you are asking for trouble. Have a balanced diet including moderate consumption of bacon, take plenty of exercise regularly, well I’m not a doctor but I think you should be OK.

All of which is by way of introduction to the latest report calling for rugby to be banned in schools and as a sport for all children. Now, like all contact sports there is a degree of danger in playing rugby. Proper training in techniques of how to tackle and be tackled, some protective gear, prompt medical treatment, all of these things can mitigate the risks but they cannot eliminate them. My own rugby career was curtailed mid-teens by repeated slipped discs in my neck. Everyone in Hong Kong involved in rugby knows of the very sad case of Ben Kende left crippled by a freak accident. Three of my four children have played rugby – two adult sons retired through age, a teenage daughter still playing and representing Hong Kong in her age group – and today my eldest son refereed a match in which my eldest grandson was playing. The sight of many hundreds of young boys and girls playing rugby each weekend is very moving. They are taking exercise, learning to play as a team, absorbing character-forming lessons about winning and losing (and how to treat those two imposters just the same – thank you Rudyard).

So while I like all parents take note of the dangers of rugby (and secretly pray that none of the misadventures affect my own offspring) I also note its many plus points. In the overall scheme of things I think rugby is still a huge social plus.