The aim of this longitudinal study was to describe the incidence, severity and burden of match injuries in elite adult women’s rugby union. Secondary aims were to describe injuries in different positional groupings (forwards and backs) and to describe the type and location of, and game event responsible for, injuries. The study found the incidence of injury was similar to those previously reported for women’s international match play, while lower than the elite men’s competition. Both the mean and median severity of injury were higher than those reported in elite men’s rugby. Concussion was the most common injury diagnosis, with the incidence of concussion increasing over the study period. The tackle event was associated with the greatest burden of injury, with ‘being tackled’ specifically causing the most injuries and concussions.
Starling, L. T., Gabb, N., Williams, S., Kemp, S., & Stokes, K. A. (2022). Longitudinal study of six seasons of match injuries in elite female rugby union. British Journal of Sports Medicine. Online first.
The relationship between physical characteristics and match collision performance among elite international female rugby union players
The aim of this study was to investigate which combination of anthropometric and physical abilities explained variance in match collision performance, using both effort and performance variables, in international female rugby union matches. The study collected physical performance and anthropometric data from fifty-one international female rugby union players, and analysed collision actions (categorised as “effort” or “performance” variables) from 20 international matches. Among forwards, acceleration momentum, body mass and skinfolds were positively associated with winning collisions and carrying the ball into contact more frequently, whilst tackle frequency was positively associated with relative leg strength and power output. For the backs, the ability to win collisions was positively associated with relative leg power output, and negatively associated with body mass. Tackle frequency was also associated with maximum upper- and lower-body strength.
This study is published in the European Journal of Sport Science. Woodhouse, L. N., Bennett, M., Tallent, J., Patterson, S. D., & Waldron, M. (2022). The relationship between physical characteristics and match collision performance among elite international female rugby union players. European Journal of Sport Science, 1-10.
The purpose of this review was to synthesise both injury prevention and performance tackle-related research to provide rugby stakeholders with information on tackle injury epidemiology, including tackle injury risk factors and performance determinants, and to discuss measures that may improve tackle performance while reducing the risk of tackle injuries. Using a systematic review approach, a total of 177 rugby union studies and 13 rugby sevens studies were identified. The review found that the tackle consistently accounted for more than 50% of all injuries in rugby union and rugby sevens, both at the professional level and at the lower levels, with the rate of tackle injuries higher at the professional level (mean 32/1000 player-hours) compared with the lower levels (mean 17/1000 player- hours). Also, the frequencies of injury between the ball carrier and tackler were not largely dissimilar. A player’s tackle actions and technical ability was also highlighted as a major risk factor for injury and a key determinant of performance. While studies have used evidence-based education, or proposed progressive tackle technique training and law changes to modify player tackle actions and technical ability, it was noted that all three modifiers working in unison (as oppose to separately) will have a higher potential at reducing tackle injury risk while enhancing performance. With the guidance of tackle injury and performance studies, as well as stakeholder engagement, experiential and explorative tackle research also has potential to inspire innovative tackle injury prevention and performance strategies.
This is review is published in the BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine and is open access.
The role of player mass and contact speed on head kinematics and neck dynamics in rugby union tackling
This study aimed to use multi- body modeling simulations to examine how tackler and ball carrier mass and contact speed affect inertial head kinematics and neck dynamics. Simulations were run by independently varying the ball carrier and tackler mass (from 60 to 110kg) and speed (from 0 to 10 m/s). Peak resultant inertial neck dynamics (force and moment) and head kinematics (linear acceleration, angular acceleration, and angular velocity) were extracted from each simulation. The study found that the greatest inertial head kinematics and neck dynamics were sustained by a lighter player during a tackle with a heavier player, irrespective of their role as a tackler or ball carrier. For contact speed, the greatest inertial head kinematics and neck dynamics sustained by the ball carrier and tackler were when they were both traveling at the highest speed.
This study was published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports.
Tierney, G. J., & Tucker, R. (2022). The role of player mass and contact speed on head kinematics and neck dynamics in rugby union tackling. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 32(2), 298-312.
The aim of this study was to explore how PlayerLoad™ changes between different levels of tackling technique during a simulated tackle. PlayerLoad™ did not significantly differ between technical score categories at the point of contact. However, during the tackle completion phase, tackles within the high technical scoring category recorded a higher PlayerLoadTM than low and medium technical scoring tackles. The PlayerLoad™ trace of tackles within the high technical scoring category were also more consistent throughout the tackle. The variability in the PlayerLoad™ trace may be the consequence of players not shortening their steps before contact, reducing their ability to control their movement during the contact and post-contact phase of the tackle. Using the PlayerLoad™ trace in conjunction with technique assessments offers coaches and practitioners insight into the physical-technical relationship of each tackle to optimise tackle skill training, monitoring and match preparation.
Paul, L., Davidow, D., James, G., Ross, T., Lambert, M., Burger, N., … & Hendricks, S. (2022). Tackle Technique and Changes in Playerload™ During a Simulated Tackle: An Exploratory Study. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 21(3), 383-393.
Three-dimensional mechanics of the rugby tackle, does the ball carrier alter their movement into contact in response to the tackler’s position?
The aim of this exploratory study was to identify if, when, and how, the ball carrier modified their motion when being tackled, in response to specific tackle instructions given to the tackler. The ball carrier was observed to modify their behaviour in response to anticipated changes in the tackler’s motion. Specifically, the ball carrier positioned their body at contact using one of two movement strategies: (1) increasing their stability via flexing their trunk, knee, and hips more when entering mid or high trunk tackles; or (2) offload the ball or perform an evasive movement strategy by positioning themselves in a more upright body position when being tackled at a low trunk tackle height. These findings, together with knowledge of tackle injury-risk factors, could inform future coaching interventions for the ball carrier to optimise their performance and mitigate injury risk during the tackle.
This study was published in the International Journal of Sports Science and Coaching and is free to access.
Edwards, S., Tahu, T., Buchanan, M., Tucker, R., Fuller, G., & Gardner, A. J. (2022). Three-dimensional mechanics of the rugby tackle, does the ball carrier alter their movement into contact in response to the tackler’s position?. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, 17(2), 298-308.
Individuals adopting Activate had a significantly lower training injury incidence than non-adopters, and lower match incidence and burden. Players completing Activate three times per week had significantly lower training and match incidence compared with those with low (<1 session) weekly adherence. Two-thirds of teams adopted Activate, with most completing Acti- vate three times per week. However, Activate was often not implemented as intended, with teams not using whole phases or failing to progress the programme.
The full text article is free to download in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Barden, C., Hancock, M. V., Stokes, K. A., Roberts, S. P., & McKay, C. D. (2022). Effectiveness of the Activate injury prevention exercise programme to prevent injury in schoolboy rugby union. British Journal of Sports Medicine. Online first.
Physical and Technical Demands and Preparatory Strategies in Female Field Collision Sports: A Scoping Review
Women’s participation in field collision sports is growing worldwide. Scoping reviews provide an overview of scientific literature in a developing area to support practitioners, policy, and research priorities. The aim of this study was to explore the published research and synthesise information on the physical and technical demands and preparation strategies of female field collision sports. 43 studies met the inclusion criteria. Physical demands were the most highly investigated (n=24), followed by technical demands (n-18), tactical considerations (n=8) and preparatory strategies (n=1). The key themes embody a holistic model contributing to both performance and injury prevention outcomes in the context of female field collision sports. Findings suggest a gender data gap across all themes and a low evidence base to inform those preparing female athletes for match demands. Given the physical and technical differences in match-demands the review findings do not support the generalisation of male-derived training data to female athletes.
The full text article is published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine.
Dane, K., Simms, C., Hendricks, S., West, S. W., Griffin, S., Nugent, F. J., … & Wilson, F. (2022). Physical and Technical Demands and Preparatory Strategies in Female Field Collision Sports: A Scoping Review. International Journal of Sports Medicine. Online first.
Players’, parents’ and staffs’ perceptions of injury prevention exercise programmes in youth rugby union
In youth rugby union, there is a belief that the risk of injury is high and that injuries can be prevented; however, successful implementation of injury prevention exercise programmes in ball sports is limited by barriers such as lack of time, resources and player or staff attitude and motivation. Stakeholders’ attitudes and beliefs regarding injury risk and prevention are important to understand, as they play a role in the adoption of injury prevention exercise programmes. This study aimed to describe staff members’, players’ and parents’ knowledge and perceptions of injury risk, injury severity and injury prevention in youth rugby union in Australia and explore facilitators and barriers to performing an injury prevention exercise programme. Staff, parents and players agree that the risk of injury is high, that injuries can be serious and that preventing injury is important. Allied health staff such as strength and conditioning coaches should be considered a viable alternative to coaches where available, although coaches remain key influencers and leaders in this setting. Barrier themes to performing an injury prevention exercise programme included poor attitude or motivation of the players, limitations related to the programme, poor attitude or motivation of staff, and lack of leadership in implementation of the programme. Facilitators to performing an injury prevention exercise programme included positive behaviour change through the use of structure and routine, strong leadership displayed by coaches and/or administration with the creation of rules or policy, leadership through positive role modelling, positive attitude of the players, and positive attitude of the staff.
This article is open-access in BMJ Open Sport and Exercise Medicine.
Sly, N., Soomro, M., Withall, A. L., Cullen, P., Turner, R. M., & Flahive, S. R. (2022). Players’, parents’ and staffs’ perceptions of injury prevention exercise programmes in youth rugby union. BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine, 8(2), e001271.