Dad speaks out in wake of rugby spinal injury reforms
THE father of a Toowoomba Grammar School student told he may never walk again after a rugby training accident has welcomed reforms to the game.
Bernie Bierhoff's 18-year-old son Ollie was left with a dislocated spine and a fractured disc after a routine training drill went wrong last July.
On the back of his injury, and three other similar incidents in the GPS competition, Rugby Australia announced a raft of changes to protect junior players from serious spinal damage.
"I think the changes will be worthwhile," Mr Bierhoff said.
"You don't let your kids play rugby and think there's not a chance they will get injured, of course there is that chance in an impact sport.
"You could get hurt playing cricket by getting hit by a ball, there's more chances being hurt in a vehicle accident than playing sport."
Ollie Bierhoff was one of two Grammar students who sustained serious spinal injuries in the space of two days last year.
After months of rehab, Ollie is now back on the family farm as he prepares to study agriculture at university this year.
"(There are) families who have had these same circumstances put in front of them and it is highlighting things for schools to lessen the chances of injury and the impact after those injuries," Bernie Bierhoff said.
"The injury was certainly disruptive to our whole family life; we were away from home for nearly five months so it is pretty full on."
A report released by Australia's national rugby body at the weekend said the incidents involving the two Toowoomba Grammar students were "unrelated and dissimilar".
Its findings also revealed Rugby Australia would adopt a French-style "front-row passport scheme" to protect young players.
Toowoomba Grammar School was asked to consider how it offers rugby by the panel and to consider changing its insurance policy.