Rugby players could be banned from tackling above the waist in trials to reduce concussion
Rugby players could be banned from tackling above the waist during trials into whether it helps reduce the number of concussions in the game.
World Rugby will decide next week whether to sanction temporary rule changes in certain matches – probably starting at youth level – following analysis of 600 videos of head injuries by its medical team.
That analysis found that 72 per recent of “head injury events” occurred in the tackle, with 76 per cent of those who suffer such injuries being the tackler rather than the ball carrier.
That proved to be the case on Saturday when England’s win over South Africa witnessed a sickening clash of heads between Billy Vunipola and Eben Etzebeth, who was forced from the field.
World Rugby chief medical officer Dr Martin Rafferty said: “We’ve found that if the ball carrier is bent at the waist then he has reduced injuries. If the tackler’s bent at the waist, he has reduced injuries.”
Confirming banning tackling below the waist was one way of helping facilitate this, Dr Ken Quarrie, the senior scientist for New Zealand Rugby and a member of World Rugby’s medicine, science and research advisory group, added: “I’d certainly like to see a trial at the junior levels for a start.
“Already, it’s below the chest at – I think – eight, nine, 10, 11 year olds in New Zealand. I don’t think it would be a major change to bring it down to the waist.
“So, trialling that, perhaps, is something we can look at and seeing what effect that has.”
A spokesman for World Rugby confirmed it would decide on its response to its head injury research next week.
However, even if trials are sanctioned, it could be years before enough data is gathered to determine whether a permanent rule change is warranted.
Rafferty added: “I know that people want to see change quickly and we want to change quickly but we don’t want to change quickly and then cause another problem.
“So, we have to be measured in the way we do it but continue to move forward.”