The Effect of Tackler Technique on Head Injury Assessment Risk in Elite Rugby Union

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Abstract

Purpose

This study aimed to use match video evidence of tackles in elite-level rugby union to identify tackler proficiency characteristics, for both lower body and upper body tackles, that result in head injury assessments (HIA) for the tackler.

Methods

A review of international rugby union matches (2013–2017) and Pro 12/European Rugby Champions Cup matches (2014–2017) from a professional rugby union club was conducted. HIA (n = 74) and non-HIA tackles (n = 233) were categorized as either front-on or side-on upper body or lower body tackles and were scored for tackling proficiency characteristics. A chi-square test (P < 0.05) and phi and Cramer’s V were calculated to compare HIA and non-HIA tackling proficiency characteristics.

Results

In both front- and side-on upper body and lower body tackles, “head up and forward/face up” and “head placement on correct side of ball carrier” were identified as having a lower propensity to result in an HIA for the tackler. For both front-on and side-on upper body tackles, “identify/track ball carrier onto shoulder” and “shortening steps” were identified. In addition, “straight back, centre of gravity forward of support base” and “identify/track ball carrier onto shoulder” were identified for front-on and side-on lower body tackles, respectively.

Conclusions

This study identified tackle characteristics that had a lower propensity to result in an HIA for the tackler in both front-on and side-on upper body and lower body tackles.

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