No cracks in rugby code

Dale Lofts believes rugby league goes out of its way to ensure player safety. Picture: Marcus Whissond418006ê
Dale Lofts believes rugby league goes out of its way to ensure player safety. Picture: Marcus Whissond418006ê

The 22-year-old Newcastle Knights forward is currently recovering in a Melbourne hospital after two lots of surgery on his spine after fracturing his C4 and C5 vertebrae following the tackle at AAMI Park.

While the incident has shown rugby league and other sporting codes are not immune to serious injury, North Beach and District Rugby League Football Club president Dale Lofts said it was important to note injuries such as this could happen anywhere.

‘All codes are focused on the care and welfare of players; it is the main focus of our training and accreditation of coaches, team support staff and club officials,’ Mr Lofts said.

‘It is the single most important part of the development of players, from modified rules and games for junior players to the mandatory use of protective equipment and stringent adherence to the rules of the game.’

Royal Perth Hospital Spinal Unit representative Ruth Crowe said it was apparent care was already being taken in sport and nobody went out onto the field with the intention to injure another, but accidents did occur.

‘The rules of the game are specified for the safety of those playing the sport,’ she said.

‘Potentially an individual could be faced with a life-changing scenario, such as Alex, regardless of whether the rules are adhered to or not.’

Better Life Foundation WA director Charles Sultana was only 24 when a fishing trip to Coral Bay ended in tragedy, leaving him a quadriplegic.

The 36-year-old agreed with Mr Lofts and Ms Crowe, saying both the AFL and NRL had introduced various rule changes in an attempt to prevent serious head and neck injuries.

‘The key task for administrators is to monitor trends in the style of play,’ Mr Sultana said.

‘For example, the ducking of a player’s head to earn a free kick or tackling methods and making sure the potential for serious injury isn’t increased.’

Mr Sultana’s foundation helps improve the lives of people living with a spinal cord injury in Western Australia. He echoed Mr Lofts’ statement that as in his case, this type of injury was not limited to the field.

Mrs Crowe said about 8 per cent of spinal injuries were obtained from sporting activities.