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Sports Medicine Feature

Source: Wikimedia Commons and PierreSelim

Rugby: Poor Tackle Technique Increases Injury Risk

Tracey Romero • Fri, November 24th, 2017

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To shed some more light on the relationship between technique in sports and injury, a recent study, “Tackler’s head position relative to the ball carrier is highly correlated with head and neck injuries in rugby,” published online on November, 21, 2017 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine looked specifically at the tackler’s head position in rugby and found that poor technique did lead to more head and neck injuries.

The objective of the study was to characterize the tackler’s head position during one-on-one tackling during a rugby match and to measure the incidence of head, neck and shoulder injuries to see if there are any connections between the two.

The researchers analyzed 28 game videos that featured two university teams competing against each other in 2015 and 2016. From the videos, they categorized the tackles according to the tackler’s head position, defined the ‘pre-contact phase,’ how long it lasted and how many steps the ball carrier took before the tackle.

According to the data, there were 3,970 tackles evaluated and in 317 (8.0%) of them the tackler’s head was incorrectly positioned. During these tackles, 32 head, neck or shoulder injuries occurred. The incidence of injury in tackles with incorrect head positioning was 69.4/1,000 tackles compared to an incidence of injury rate of 2.7/1,000 tackles with correct head positioning. In addition the ball carrier tended to take fewer steps before the tackles with incorrect head positioning that resulted in injury.

The researchers wrote, “Tackling with incorrect head position relative to the ball carrier resulted in a significantly higher incidence of concussions, neck injuries, stingers and nasal fractures than tackling with correct head position. Tackles with shorter duration and distance before contact resulted in more injuries.”

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