This weekend I experienced the nightmare that comes to many parents who have a child that plays rugby; my son was injured during a game.
My boy is a fit young man of twenty who plays for one of the North Shore colt’s rugby teams. That means that he is a young adult, playing against other young adults that are very fit, very big, very fast and prone to do very stupid things (like many of us did at that age).
My son had gone down to cover a loose ball during a finals series colt’s game and an opposing player came in quickly and dropped knee in to the middle of his back. It was wet and the ground was greasy and slippery.
Was it deliberate? Did the player have a momentary brain-snap? I don’t think I’ll ever know. What I do know is that the game was stopped and the team physio came on to the pitch and spent a very long time looking, prodding lightly and trying to talk to my injured son while all I could do was look on helplessly from the sideline.
Eventually, my son was helped from the field. He was able to walk, with help, but was clearly in a lot of pain. I hurried around to the team physio area and when I got there I could see immediately that he was in a lot of distress.
When the physio gently examined the area at the base of my son’s spine, it was very sore. We were worried that he would not be able to walk to the car. Internally, I was panicking that he might not be able to walk again.
Twenty-four hours and a back x-ray later, my son is recovering slowly. It would appear at this stage that there is no permanent damage, but he will be sore for a long time and will not be able to work or go to college for a while. Rugby is finished for the season for him.
And now there is a series of what-if questions going through my mind;
What if the knee had been a little faster, harder or 2cm closer to his spine?
What should happen to the person who dropped the knee in to my son’s back? I understand the chap didn’t even get a caution during the match, probably because the referee was focussing on the prostrate player rather than the culprit.
What if the outcome had been more serious?
What sort of young man would do something like that intentionally?
What sort of team would condone that type of play?
And at what point, if the injury had been worse, would the tackle turn in to an act of common assault and become a criminal case rather than some over-zealous play?
How long do we allow our children to play games of Russian roulette with their bodies or with the bodies of people on the opposing team?
I know rugby is a full-contact sport. That’s part of the reason that I believe it is a good game for young men to play. And my son is well beyond the age when his old dad will make the decision if he will play any sport at all.
But, the nightmares that I have had regarding the possibility of injury will not go away until my son hangs up his boots forever.