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Tackler’s head position relative to the ball carrier is highly correlated with head and neck injuries in rugby
  1. Shogo Sobue1,
  2. Takayuki Kawasaki1,
  3. Yoshinori Hasegawa1,
  4. Yuki Shiota1,
  5. Chihiro Ota2,
  6. Takeshi Yoneda2,
  7. Shigeyuki Tahara2,
  8. Nobukazu Maki3,
  9. Takahiro Matsuura3,
  10. Masahiro Sekiguchi3,
  11. Yoshiaki Itoigawa4,
  12. Tomohiko Tateishi5,
  13. Kazuo Kaneko1
  1. 1 Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Faculty of Medicine, Juntendo University, Tokyo, Japan
  2. 2 Rugby Football Club, Keio University, Yokohama, Japan
  3. 3 Rugby Football Club, Meiji University, Tokyo, Japan
  4. 4 Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Juntendo University Urayasu Hospital, Chiba, Japan
  5. 5 Department of Sports and Arthroscopy Center, Doai Memorial Hospital, Tokyo, Japan
  1. Correspondence to Dr Takayuki Kawasaki, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Juntendo University Faculty of Medicine, Bunkyo, Tokyo 113-8421, Japan; k-saki{at}


Objectives To characterise the tackler’s head position during one-on-one tackling in rugby and to determine the incidence of head, neck and shoulder injuries through analysis of game videos, injury records and a questionnaire completed by the tacklers themselves.

Methods We randomly selected 28 game videos featuring two university teams in competitions held in 2015 and 2016. Tackles were categorised according to tackler’s head position. The ‘pre-contact phase’ was defined; its duration and the number of steps taken by the ball carrier prior to a tackle were evaluated.

Results In total, 3970 tackles, including 317 (8.0%) with the tackler’s head incorrectly positioned (ie, in front of the ball carrier) were examined. Thirty-two head, neck or shoulder injuries occurred for an injury incidence of 0.8% (32/3970). The incidence of injury in tackles with incorrect head positioning was 69.4/1000 tackles; the injury incidence with correct head positioning (ie, behind or to one side of the ball carrier) was 2.7/1000 tackles. Concussions, neck injuries, ‘stingers’ and nasal fractures occurred significantly more often during tackles with incorrect head positioning than during tackles with correct head positioning. Significantly fewer steps were taken before tackles with incorrect head positioning that resulted in injury than before tackles that did not result in injury.

Conclusion Tackling with incorrect head position relative to the ball carrier resulted in a significantly higher incidence of concussions, neck injuries, stingers and nasal fractures than tackling with correct head position. Tackles with shorter duration and distance before contact resulted in more injuries.

  • rugby
  • injury
  • concussion

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  • Contributors SS and TK contributed equally to this work. TK: supervisor of SS, designed and planned the study. SS and TK performed data analysing and wrote the initial draft of the manuscript. All other authors have contributed to data collection and interpretation, and critically reviewed the manuscript. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript, and agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval The study was approved by our hospital’s institutional review board Juntendo University Faculty of Medicine (number 14-161).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Correction notice This article has been corrected since it was published Online First. The name of author Chihiro Ota has been corrected.

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