Injuries in rugby union just part of the sport

Last updated 15:45 09/06/2014

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A recent spate of injuries among teenage rugby players is just part of the sport, rugby organisers say.

On Sunday afternoon, Westpac Rescue Auckland responded to Whitianga for a teenage boy who had suffered a spinal injury due to a rugby tackle. He was transferred to Waikato Hospital in a moderate condition.

That same weekend two Palmerston North boys had to be airlifted to hospital after being injured during a first XV game.

Their injuries were not as serious as first feared, but they were playing at the same high school as Nathanael "Nat" Manville, who last month sustained a serious neck injury during a ruck.

After fracturing his fifth cervical vertebra, the 18-year-old was flown to Palmerston North Hospital before being transferred to Christchurch Hospital where he was waiting to be moved to Burwood Hospital's spinal unit. He is currently in the intensive care unit after having surgery on his neck.

Also last month, a 13-year-old boy suffered a serious spinal injury while playing rugby at Opunake High School, near New Plymouth.

But the New Zealand Rugby Foundation, which supports seriously injured players, says the number of injuries so far this season is no more or less than any other year.

There are 150,000 registered rugby players aged 5 to 64 playing 35 weekends a year, and every single injury is reported, chief executive Lisa Kingi said.

"Everyone absolutely errs on the side of caution. There's no room for any element of risk."

Kingi was in Christchurch today to visit Manville, who was "doing as well as he can be".

"Nat's accident happened three weekends ago - he wasn't the first this year and he certainly isn't going to be the last," she said.

Ten years ago most injuries would have been suffered in the scrum, but this year three wingers were seriously injured, and Manville was a lock.

"There's no rhyme or reason, it's just a contact sport."

The New Zealand Rugby Union said while one serious injury was one too many, they were seeing a "pleasing improvement".

General manager community and provincial union rugby Brent Anderson said the compulsory Rugby Smart programme for coaches taught safe rugby technique and was having a marked impact in terms of reducing serious injuries.

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