Faulty positioning in rugby tackles boosts injury risk

(Reuters Health) – Head, neck and shoulder injuries during rugby tackles are more common when the tackler’s head is incorrectly positioned in relation to the ball carrier, a small study has found.

FILE PHOTO – Rugby Union – England Training – Pennyhill Park, Bagshot, Britain – November 21, 2017 England’s Semesa Rokoduguni makes a tackle during training Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Couldridge

Japanese researchers randomly selected 28 game videos featuring two university teams and evaluated a total of 3,970 tackles. In about 10 percent of the tackles, the tackler’s head was incorrectly positioned in front of the ball carrier.

World Rugby, the sport’s governing body, says the tackler must be positioned behind or to one side of the ball carrier.

“When we did our own comprehensive head injury study in late 2016, the specialist working group identified technique as a key focus area, and the tackle law amendment in January was aimed at adjusting the technique of the tackler to remove the player from the area of greatest risk,” a World Rugby spokesperson told Reuters Health by email.

Evidence from the 2016 study showed that 76 percent of all head injuries occur in the tackle, and the risk of injury for the tackler is more than two and a half times greater than for the ball-carrier, with tackle height a contributing factor.

In the current study, the incidence of injury was 69.4 per 1,000 tackles when head positioning was incorrect, falling to 2.7 per 1,000 tackles with correct positioning, Dr. Takayuki Kawasaki of the Juntendo University Faculty of Medicine in Bunkyo, Tokyo, and colleagues found.

Injuries were more common when tackles were of shorter duration and when there was shorter distance covered before contact, the researchers wrote in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

“This particular study supports our evidence-based position that the promotion of correct technique in the tackle has a significant injury-prevention benefits,” the…

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