Does ball carrier technique influence tackler head injury assessment risk in elite rugby union?

Gregory J Tierney, Karl Denvir, Garreth Farrell, Ciaran K Simms

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


The aim of this study was to use video evidence of tackles in elite level rugby union to identify ball carrier proficiency characteristics, for both lower and upper body tackles, that have a higher propensity to result in Head Injury Assessments(HIA) for the tackler. HIA (n = 74) and non-HIA tackles (n = 233) were categorised as either front-on or side-on upper or lower body tackles and scored for ball carrying proficiency characteristics. Side-on tackles included tackles from behind. A Chi-Square test (p < 0.05) and Cramer’s V were calculated to compare proficiency characteristics in HIA and non-HIA cases. For front-on upper body tackles, the ball carrier “fending into contact” (p < 0.01;ES = Moderate) and “explosiveness on contact” (p = 0.04;ES = Moderate) had a higher propensity to result in a HIA for the tackler. Fending into contact was exhibited in 47% of all upper body Tackle front-on HIA cases. The fending arm contacted the tackler’s head in 67% of these cases. Fending into contact can potentially be dangerous and therefore emphasis should be placed on safe fending during tackle-based training drills. Referees should also be alert to arm-to-head contact during the fend. Given the low number of ball carrier characteristics identified, focus should be placed on tackler characteristics for HIA prevention strategies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)262-267
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Sports Sciences
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 3 Jul 2018


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