Epidemiology of tackle injuries in professional rugby
Strauss, Georg Linde
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Objectives: Rugby union is a contact sport with a high injury rate. The tackle situation in rugby union is the cause of most injuries. The aim of this study was to investigate biomechanical aspects of the tackle in professional rugby to identify possible mechanisms of injury in the tackle. From this recommendations can be made to make the tackle safer. Methods: Video material from six Super 14 rugby matches involving the Cheetahs was analysed. The number of tackles (20) resulting in injury to a player was reported and nine further associated factors explored by determining differences using 95% confidence intervals. Significance was set at p = 0.05 and calculated from the proportional number of injuries from each category relative to the total number of tackles made. An odds ratio was calculated to determine practical significance where clinical significance could not be found. A total number of 744 tackles were analysed which occurred during 480 minutes of rugby accounting for 7200 player minutes. Results: From the 744 tackles that were made or received, 20 (2.7%) tackles resulted in injury, accounting to 167 tackle injuries per 1000 player match hours. The study found that significantly more injuries (p = 0.048) were sustained by tacklers performing a tackle in the attacking 22m compared to the other field positions. Most of the tackles occurred in Channel 2+ (n = 622, 83.6%) which resulted to the vast majority of tackles occurring in this game situation. Seventeen (85.0%) of the 20 injuries were sustained during Channel 2+ play, of which 13 (65.0%) ball carriers and 4 (20.0%) tacklers were injured. This had an odds ratio with practical significance. The body part hit in the tackle was often not the body part injured. Muscle contusions were the most common type of injury. Conclusions: A high incidence of tackle injuries was recorded. The tackle remains the most dangerous phase of play in rugby union. Different biomechanical aspects occur in the tackle that contribute to injury. The field position where a tackle takes place was found to be an important risk factor in the cause of injury. Front-on tackles and high impact vectors are associated with increased injury rates. The channel of play was also an important area where ball carriers sustained injuries. Factors influencing the tackle situation in certain areas of the field and certain channels of play can be made safer by placing emphasis on mental coaching, composure in pressure situations and maintaining the correct playing and tackle techniques to prevent tackle injuries in these areas and channels of play. Further research on these aspects is recommended.
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