New research tackles safety issue in rugby

31 January 2022 | News

A new study monitoring the Lincoln University Rams premier rugby men’s side over a season found surprisingly few injuries from tackling.

Lincoln University's Professor Mike Hamlin was a co-author of Profiling the tackle and its injury characteristics in premier New Zealand club rugby union players over a complete season, recently published in the prestigious British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The study followed 28 Rams players over 18 matches in the 2017 rugby season and aimed to identify whether New Zealand Rugby’s “RugbySmart” safe tackle technique was exhibited by club rugby players. The research also explored whether tackle-related injuries resulted from poor tackle technique characteristics.

According to Professor Hamlin, one of the most interesting results of the study involved significantly low injury rates being attributed to tackles, with an average of two injuries per 1000 tackles over the entire season - far lower than previous reports.

"This may have been due to the high calibre of players used in this study (all were playing for the Lincoln University Rams Division 1 Team), and their prior experience and knowledge of tackling," he said.

"A major emphasis of the coaching staff on safety during training was also probably a factor in the low injury rates."

The research showed that forwards completed more tackles than backs, and tackles using the shoulder were the most prevalent type.

Only 57.9% of tackles performed during the season demonstrated currently prescribed good tackle technique.

Two of the six tackle-related injuries occurred in spite of players performing the RugbySmart reported tackle characteristics.

In all six injuries recorded over the season, the front foot was grounded and close to the ball-carrier, which is one of the characteristics of the desired tackle technique as promoted by RugbySmart, and yet resulted in injury.

The study concluded that further research was needed to confirm the tackling techniques less likely to result in injury.

Learn more about Lincoln University's Sport and Recreation specialisation here.