Wednesday 20 June 2018

Tackles to lower trunk can prevent rugby concussions

Jacob Stockdale is tackled by Joaquin Tuculet of Argentina as he scores for Ireland in the Guinness international series last year. Picture: Sportsfile
Jacob Stockdale is tackled by Joaquin Tuculet of Argentina as he scores for Ireland in the Guinness international series last year. Picture: Sportsfile

Michael McHugh

An Irish study has pinpointed the "safest" type of rugby tackles which they believe minimise the risk of head injuries.

Analysis by researchers from Trinity College, Dublin showed that tackling the lower trunk of the ball carrier's body was safer.

Nearly four-out-of-five tackler head injuries requiring assessment were caused by tackles to the upper trunk (47pc) and upper legs (30pc).

Concussion can be a serious danger to rugby players and has been a major issue for the youth game.

In 2014, Ireland international Johnny Sexton suffered four concussions and was told to serve a 12-week stand-down period.

Associate professor Ciaran Simms said: "The physical and high-impact nature of rugby union has made head injuries and long-term brain health a concern.

"Our findings have helped us better understand the mechanisms of head impacts in rugby union and resulted in these recommendations, which we hope may guide prevention strategies and reduce head injury assessment risks for athletes."

Researchers identified easy-to-coach characteristics, such as keeping your head up, eyes on the ball carrier and feet active, that can help reduce head injury assessment risk.

But they said: "Surprisingly, these characteristics are not always exhibited by elite players."

PhD researcher Gregory Tierney, from Trinity College Dublin's School of Engineering and Centre for Bioengineering, said head injury prevention strategies should place emphasis on tackling lower-risk body regions such as the lower trunk.

He said: "The findings from this project provide an evidence base, at the elite level, for coaches to develop and implement technical-based concussion prevention strategies for players.

"Tackling at the upper trunk of the ball carrier should be discouraged.

"Instead, coaching strategies should place emphasis on tackling at lower head injury assessment risk body regions such as the lower trunk.

"Furthermore, there needs to be a greater focus placed on safe contact technique in the tackle."

Irish Independent

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