Biden Claims Rugby Is Safer Than Football. Statistics Say Otherwise
US President Joe Biden addresses the Houses of the Oireachtas at Leinster House in Dublin, Ireland, on April 13, 2023. - Biden's address on Thursday to a joint sitting of both houses of the Irish parliament follows in the footsteps first walked by another US president, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. In his own address Thursday, Biden will echo his predecessor in underscoring "the deep and enduring historical, cultural, political and economic ties between our countries", according to senior White House adviser Amanda Sloat. (Photo by Kenny HOLSTON / POOL / AFP) (Photo by KENNY HOLSTON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

President Joe Biden claimed on Thursday, while speaking before Ireland’s Parliament, that rugby was a safer sport than football — but statistics don’t bear that out.

Declaring that he’d rather have a child of his play rugby than American football, he said that the former was less likely to result in a head injury despite the fact that rugby players often don’t wear protective padding or even helmets.


Biden began his remarks by apologizing to a baby in the gallery for the fact that she was about to be subjected to a policy speech from an American president — and then, after a brief introduction, he turned to the topic of rugby.

“I didn’t play rugby except when I was out of school, out of law school — and I didn’t play it very well, we played in a rugby club,” Biden said. “But I did play American football and a few other sports but I realized that, you know, you guys are all nuts!”

Everyone laughed, but Biden continued, adding, “The interesting thing is, I’d rather have my children playing rugby now for health reasons than I would have them playing football. Fewer people get hurt playing rugby. You have no equipment, you have 280 lb guys like we do, and you just don’t hit your head very often.”


But according to research compiled by Complete Concussion Management in 2018, rugby edges out football. Men’s rugby had the highest concussion rate across all sports for men age 18 and above: 3 per 1000 players per game. American football ranked second with 2.5 concussions per 1000 players per game.

For players under 18, the numbers were much worse when it came to rugby — 4.18 concussions per 1000 players per game — while youth football only saw .53 concussion injuries for every 1000 players per game.

For all injury types at the collegiate level, according to a study performed in 2016 by doctors Nienke W. Willegenburg, James R. Borcher, and Richard Quincy — at Ohio State University — rugby still ranked the highest with 15.2 injuries per every 1,000 players per game. In contrast, collegiate football players saw injuries at a rate of 4.9 per every 1,000 players per game.

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