We all know you are asking for trouble by putting your head in the wrong place when making a tackle.

But are you aware just how dangerous it can be? A Japanese study published in the November 2017 issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine tries to answer this question.

The Study

The abstract contains the statistics and findings of the study. However, the full text is copyrighted and must be paid for. The study featured two rugby clubs where they analysed 28 randomly selected match videos from games involving Keio University (Yokohama) and Meiji University (Tokyo). Academics from Juntendo University, Juntendo University Urayasu Hospital and Doai Memorial Hospital conducted the study.

The academics looked at head, neck and shoulder injuries. They wanted to see how strong the correlation is between these injuries and poor tackler head positioning. They defined poor positioning as the tackler putting their head in front of the ball carrier. For the sake of simplicity, we will call this a bad tackle.


In those 28 games, they identified 3970 tackles of which 317 tackles were bad. This is around 8% of the total tackles made. The 3970 tackles resulted in 32 injuries. These injuries included concussions, stingers, nasal fractures and neck injuries. More than half of those injuries occurred during bad tackles.

According to the study, injuries from bad tackles are almost 26 times more likely than injuries from good tackles. This appalling increase in risk shows just how important head positioning in the tackle can be.


Potentially the most serious consequence of poor tackle technique is a concussion. Steven recently interviewed Dr Stephen Kara of the Super Rugby side The Blues about concussion protocols. The videos give a fascinating insight into how the professional game deals with concussion.

What can we do?

World Rugby and several medical organisations estimate over half of all rugby injuries occur in the tackle. Better tackle technique could prevent a significant number of these injuries. Bad tackles are obviously dangerous, but it is a shock to find the study showing such a high risk. It is vital that coaches are skilled in teaching correct technique from a young age.

World Rugby coaching courses are actually very good at teaching graduates how to deal with contact safely. Candidates do online pre-course training on concussion, injury prevention and safety. If more coaches can complete at least level 1, this can only help.


You may have heard of a new warm-up routine that claims to drastically reduce soft tissue injuries. It comes from a study by Bath University that received a lot of publicity. They reported striking results in their research on warm-up routines.

Their study resulted in Activate, which they claim can halve the number of soft tissue injuries in rugby. The youth version, courtesy of Bognor Regis Rugby Club is shown below. There is also an adult version of the routine. The RFU is already offering special training for coaches, while online resources also available.


Author: Daniel Pugsley

I am a 31 year old from Yorkshire, England. I have played social rugby for 25 years in England, Japan, Italy, Poland and the UAE. I teach English as a foreign language, which explains why I’ve lived in so many places. I recently moved back to England and have had to take a break from playing, but I hope to pull on the boots again soon.


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