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Injury risks associated with tackling in rugby union
  1. Colin W Fuller1,
  2. Tony Ashton2,
  3. John H M Brooks3,
  4. Rebecca J Cancea2,
  5. John Hall2,
  6. Simon P T Kemp3
  1. 1University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK
  2. 2PGIR Ltd, Corsham, UK
  3. 3Rugby Football Union, Twickenham, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Colin W Fuller, Queen’s Medical Centre, University of Nottingham, Nottingham NG7 2UH, UK; colin.fuller{at}


Objective To examine factors associated with tackles in rugby union and to assess their impact on the risk of injury.

Design Two-season (2003/2004 and 2005/2006) prospective cohort design with video analysis.

Setting 13 English Premiership clubs.

Participants 645 players.

Main outcome measure RR (95% CI) calculated by comparing the frequency of occurrence of risk factors in a cohort of players injured during tackles with their frequency of occurrence in tackles in general play.

Risk factors Playing position; player’s speed, impact force, head position, head/neck flexion and body region struck in the tackle; sequence, direction and type of tackle; and location and type of injury.

Results High-speed going into the tackle, high impact force, collisions and contact with a player’s head/neck were identified as significant (p<0.01) risk factors for ball carriers (BCs) and tacklers. Midfield backs were significantly (p<0.01) more prone to injury when tackling than other players. Relatively few tacklers were penalised by referees for collision tackles (general play: 2.0%; injured players: 3.3%) and tackles above the line of the shoulder (general play: 5.9%; injured players: 16.7%).

Conclusions Advice in national and international injury prevention programmes for reducing the risk of injury in tackles is strongly supported by the results obtained from this study. These programmes should be reviewed, however, to provide specific advice for each type of tackle. Stricter implementation of the Laws of Rugby relating to collisions and tackles above the line of the shoulder may reduce the number of head/neck injuries sustained by BCs.

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  • Funding The study was funded by the International Rugby Board (Dublin).

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval Ethics approval for the study was provided by the University of Nottingham Medical School Research Ethics Committee.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; peer reviewed.