"I am not blessed with a son, but if I was I would definitely have him playing rugby."

These are the words of Jim Taylor, from Glasgow, who broke his neck at the age of 23 when the scrum he was locked in, collapsed.

A player in his school days, he had gone on to play for alumni side Kelvinside Academicals and was perhaps just 10 minutes into a match against the Old Aloysians, from St Aloysius' College, when the accident occurred.

Mr Taylor remembers the line of men falling and finding he could not get back up.

"The ball had just got thrown out across the pitch and I was just lying there," he says. "I was very lucky that one of the Old Aloysians players was a doctor. He saved my life by not letting me get moved. The game was transferred to another pitch."

As he waited, covered in blankets, for the ambulance to arrive, Mr Taylor says he was not in pain, but he felt as though his body was floating and found it hard to breathe.

He admits: "I probably was not aware it was as serious as it was."

Six weeks later, however, when he was told he would never walk again, he was expecting the bad news.

He was being looked after at what was then the West of Scotland spinal injuries unit, based in East Kilbride, and had seen enough patients in wheelchairs to anticipate the truth.

Today, aged 53, he remains paralysed from the chest down, yet he does not regret taking part in that old schoolboys' rugby match.

He says: "I have seen a lot of folk go through the spinal unit with a variety of injuries, tripping over dog leads, tripping over the pavement. There is a lot more swimming accidents when people are abroad and dive and hit their head off a rock."

Similarly, he puts his own experience on the rugby field down to an accident. "It is one of those things that can happen," he says.

Nevertheless, the number of schoolboys injured during Scottish rugby games in recent years is generating concern.

This September a pupil from Merchiston Castle, in Edinburgh, suffered a spinal injury during a match against another private school.

In January, a pupil from St Aloysius' College was hospitalised after suffering spinal damage and last year a pupil at Cathkin High in Cambuslang was paralysed during a school game.

The Queen Elizabeth National Spinal Injuries Unit, which now looks after patients with severe spinal injuries from across Scotland at its base in Glasgow, reports that five patients have been admitted since the start of 2007. One was 44 years old, two 17, one 16 and the other 15.

Mr David Allan, unit director, says: "The rate of new injuries among adolescents is of concern. We are duty bound to conduct an investigation to remove any avoidable risks."

The statistics from the spinal unit only tell part of a bigger story which may or may not highlight a problem.

Studies which the unit and the office of Scotland's chief medical officer have instigated to research youth rugby injuries should help find out whether there is a pattern that could be avoided.

There is co-operation from the Scottish Rugby Union, although some fans are naturally quick to defend the sport. A spokesman for the SRU said: "Far from being unsafe we believe Scottish Rugby has an excellent record in relation to serious injuries and we absolutely agree that there can be no room for complacency on this topic."

He added: "Whilst any injury is extremely unfortunate, we are pledged to do everything we can to eliminate the risk of injuries.

"Playing rugby - and, indeed, sport in general - develops many life skills and has enhanced and enriched the lives of tens of thousands of young Scots over many years."

There is no suggestion from Mr Allan that youth rugby should be banned - just that it is time to see if some of the potential dangers could be avoided.

He asks: "Mothers, if you have a son, do you want them to have no teeth, a shoulder or knee that does not work, or to be paralysed?"

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