RUGBY stars risk agonising injuries because of the protective gear they wear, a new study claims.
Injuries in rugby union have almost doubled since the game turned professional five years ago.
And medical experts are putting it down to the padded head and body gear that players are increasingly using in a bid to prevent damage.
The sports boffins argue that scrum caps, body armour, support sleeves and shin guards only give a player a "psychological edge" during a game. They say there is no scientific evidence to show the expensive kit has any power to prevent injury.
But if players feel safer they are more likely to throw themselves into crunching tackles.
Prof William Garraway, who led the research, has called on the International Rugby Board to ban padded kit until it has been properly tested.
He said: "Almost univer-sally, players at professional level have turned to the use of this equipment during competitive matches.
"Players expect it will minimise the consequences of bodily impact. But with the exception of mouthguards there is no good scientific evidence to support the use of any other protective equipment."
The study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, found the number of players injured since the game went professional in 1995 soared from 27 to 47 per cent.
This was despite a fall in the number of players and fewer hours in competitive matches.
Wales and Llanelli scrum-half Rupert Moon, famous for his scrum cap, said the research could hold some truth.
He started wearing his padded helmet two years ago after an old head wound had to be regularly re-stitched.
He said: "The shoulder pads and cap I wear seem to take the edge off accidental injuries. …