SA’s killing fields

The lives of schoolboy rugby players are being risked by irresponsible parents who are obsessed with winning at all costs.

This is according to a story on schoolboy rugby that appears in the latest issue of You and Huisgenoot magazines.

Sports doctor Henry Kelbrick, a former Northern Transvaal player, says parents push their children to play the game when they shouldn’t.

Recently, a father walked into his surgery with a 12-year-old boy who had hurt his neck in a match. The x-rays showed he had broken his neck.

“When I told the father the bad news he wanted to know how we could get his son fixed to play Craven Week in 10 days’ time,” Kelbrick said. “I had to pinch myself to make sure I was hearing right.”

In another incident, a rugby player at a well-known Pretoria high school was concussed twice in a short space of time.

“His doctor told him not to play rugby for the rest of the year but he was under a lot of pressure from his parents and coach and played an important match,” recalled Kelbrick. The boy then took another heavy knock to the head soon after. “He sustained brain damage and started suffering from epilepsy. He’d also been a promising tennis player, but now he won’t be able to play either sport again.”

Some parents also encourage their kids to take illegal substances to boost their performances on the rugby field.

“I found [drugs] on two boys a few weeks ago,” said Kelbrick. “They’re both 13 and come from ordinary homes. They got the stuff from gym instructors. I can’t believe it … this is used on race horses and dogs! One father was determined to make a rugby star of his slight 16-year-old son. He asked me how his son could gain 20kg of muscle by December this year.”

Kelbrick also spoke of a father who’d injected his son with growth hormone. “The boy was jerking uncontrollably. He had serious symptoms of parkinson’s disease. He had to be hospitalised and an intern spent five days gradually weaning the child off the stuff.”

With the U18 Craven Week currently taking place at the University of Jo’burg, it would be interesting to know just how many schoolboys are playing through the pain, or using illegal subtances to boost their game.