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Profiling the tackle and its injury characteristics in premier New Zealand club rugby union players over a complete season


Objectives RugbySmart is a safe tackle technique education programme. Our objective was to identify whether the RugbySmart-recommended safe tackle technique was exhibited by club rugby players and whether tackle-related injuries showed poor tackle technique characteristics.

Methods The prospective cohort design enabled 28 senior club based amateur male rugby union players from New Zealand to be followed over 18 matches in the 2017 rugby season. Game video analysis by three analysts provided categorisation of tackle technique into type, approach, foot contact, leading foot and rear foot position, face and head position. Injuries were diagnosed by the same sports medicine physician.

Results In the 18 matches, 28 players completed a combined total of 3006 tackles, with only six tackle-related injuries sustained. Notable findings included: (1) forwards complete more tackles than backs; (2) shoulder tackles were the most prevalent tackle; (3) good tackle technique as promoted by RugbySmart was demonstrated in 57.9% of all tackles and (4) of the six tackle-related injuries, two occurred despite RugbySmart desired tackle techniques.

Conclusion This is the first study to investigate whether players were performing the recommended ‘safe tackle technique’ proposed by New Zealand Rugby’s RugbySmart programme. As two of six tackle-related injuries occurred despite the RugbySmart preferred technique being performed, further technique analysis and a larger sample are needed to determine what techniques reduce risk of injury during tackles. As only 57.9% of tackles were performed with RugbySmart head and foot positions, further research and education regarding tackle technique recommendations are needed.

  • sporting injuries
  • rugby
  • preventive medicine
  • brain concussion
  • male

Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request. The dataset for this article is not publicly available, however, requests to access the dataset can be directed to MJH (

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