OBJECTIVES: To assess the influence of selected aspects of lifestyle, personality, and other player related factors on injuries in the tackle. To describe the detailed circumstances in which these tackles occurred. METHODS: A prospective case-control study was undertaken in which the tackling and tackled players ("the cases") involved in a tackle injury were each matched with "control" players who held the same respective playing positions in the opposing teams. A total of 964 rugby matches involving 71 senior clubs drawn from all districts of the Scottish Rugby Union (SRU) were observed by nominated linkmen who administered self report questionnaires to the players identified as cases and controls. Information on lifestyle habits, match preparation, training, and coaching experience was obtained. A validated battery of psychological tests assessed players' trait anger and responses to anger and hostility. The circumstances of the tackles in which injury occurred were recorded by experienced SRU coaching staff in interviews with involved players after the match. RESULTS: A total of 71 tackle injury episodes with correct matching of cases and controls were studied. The following player related factors did not contribute significantly to tackle injuries: alcohol consumption before the match, feeling "below par" through minor illness, the extent of match preparation, previous coaching, or practising tackling. Injured and non-injured players in the tackle did not differ in their disposition toward, or expression of, anger or hostility. Some 85% of tackling players who were injured were three quarters, and 52% of injuries occurred when the tackle came in behind the tackled player or within his peripheral vision. Either the tackling or tackled player was sprinting or running in all of these injury episodes. One third of injuries occurred in differential speed tackles--that is, when one player was travelling much faster than the other at impact. The player with the lower momentum was injured in 80% of these cases. Forceful or crunching tackles resulting in injury mostly occurred head on or within the tackled player's side vision. CONCLUSIONS: Attention should be focused on high speed tackles going in behind the tackled player's line of vision. Comparative information on the circumstances of the vast majority of tackles in which no injury occurs is required before any changes are considered to reduce injuries in the tackle.
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