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Tackling concussion in professional rugby union: a case–control study of tackle-based risk factors and recommendations for primary prevention


Background/aim Concussion, the most common injury in professional rugby union, occurs most commonly during the tackle. Thus, we investigated the association between tackle characteristics and concussion.

Methods 182 video clips of tackles leading to clinically diagnosed concussion and 4619 tackles that did not were coded across three professional rugby union competitions. A variable selection process was undertaken to identify the most important variables for interpretation. A multivariate generalised linear model was used to model the association between retained variables and concussion risk. Magnitude-based inferences provided an interpretation of the real-world relevance of the outcomes.

Results The four retained variables were: accelerating player, tackler speed, head contact type and tackle type. Overall, 70% of concussions occurred to the tackler and 30% to the ball carrier. There was a higher risk of concussion if the tackler accelerated into the tackle (OR: 2.49, 95% CI 1.70 to 3.64) or the tackler was moving at high speed (OR: 2.64, 95% CI 1.92 to 3.63). Head contact with the opposing player’s head (OR: 39.9, 95% CI 22.2 to 71.1) resulted in a substantially greater risk of concussion compared with all other head contact locations.

Conclusions Interventions that reduce the speed and acceleration of the tackler and reduce exposure to head-to-head contact would likely reduce concussion risk in professional rugby union.

  • concussion
  • risk factor
  • sporting injuries
  • prevention
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