Category: Player and Coach Development
Rugby Science Update 8
Professional male rugby union players’ perceived psychological recovery and physical regeneration during the off-season
The aim of this study was to explain the phenomenon of psychological recovery and physical regeneration of male professional rugby union players during the off-season. The study used a qualitative approach to gather the beliefs and experiences of players regarding their mental and physical health and well-being across the off-season period and identify the psychological and physical strategies adopted to recover and regenerate in preparation for the upcoming season. The study interviewed 34 male professional players, and found that the off-season is characterised by three phases that players undergo to preserve their mental and physical health and well-being to recover from the previous season and regenerate in preparation for the upcoming season. These include decompression from previous season, cognitive detachment from the rugby environment and preparation for preseason. Successful progression through all three phases appears to be influenced by variables including the work and life demands a player is encountering at the time, contextual factors such as their health status (ie, currently injured or ill), and their level of experience in the sport (eg, previous experiences of the off-season). The authors recommend players should receive sufficient time (5–6 weeks) in the off-season to progress through the phases of recovery and regeneration to prepare for the upcoming season, with consideration for the impact of work and life demands, contextual factors and experience levels. Also, education should be provided to all stakeholders regarding the importance of the off-season period for well-being (recovery and regeneration), together with strategies that can be used to enhance the quality of this process (ie, physically distancing from work environment to support cognitive detachment from rugby, engaging in development activities that nourish holistic identity and personal skill development). Clinicians should also support, where appropriate, player subgroups at risk of threats to well-being and welfare in the off-season period (long term or recently injured and younger professionals).
This is study is published in BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine and is open access.
Mellalieu, S. D., Sellars, P., Arnold, R., Williams, S., Campo, M., & Lyons, D. (2023). Professional male rugby union players’ perceived psychological recovery and physical regeneration during the off-season. BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine, 9(1), e001361.
Tackling sport-related concussion: effectiveness of lowering the maximum legal height of the tackle in amateur male rugby – a cross-sectional analytical study
The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of a tackle law variation that reduces the maximum legal tackle height from the line of the shoulder of the ball barrier, to the line of the armpit, on injury, head injury and sport-related concussion (SRC) incidence in amateur community rugby union. The study used a cross-sectional analytical design over the period 2018 (control) and 2019 (intervention) in a South African collegiate student rugby competition – which included 42 teams. Reducing the legal tackle height from the line of the shoulder to the armpit of the ball carrier in community amateur rugby showed a trend towards reducing injuries, head injuries and SRC, however, these injury trends were not statistically different.
This study is published in Injury Prevention and is open access.
Van Tonder, R., Starling, L., Surmon, S., Viviers, P., Kraak, W., Boer, P. H., … & Brown, J. C. (2023). Tackling sport-related concussion: effectiveness of lowering the maximum legal height of the tackle in amateur male rugby–a cross-sectional analytical study. Injury prevention, 29(1), 56-61.
Performance indicators associated with match outcome within the United Rugby Championship
This study had 3 aims i) identify performance indicators associated with match outcomes in the United Rugby Championship (URC), ii) compare efficacy of isolated data and data relative to opposition in predicting match outcome, and iii) investigate whether reduced performance indicator statistical models can reproduce predictive accuracy. The study analysed 27 performance indicators from 96 matches during the 2020-2021 URC season. Five key performances indicators differentiated between winning and losing in the URC – kicks from hand, metres made, clean breaks, turnovers conceded and scrum penalties. Kicking was highlighted as a key driver for match success, with the probability of winning higher for a team kicking more than their opposition. Also, team performance data are much more efficient at predicting match outcomes when expressed relative to the opposition’s performance.
This study is published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport and is open access.
Scott, G. A., Bezodis, N., Waldron, M., Bennett, M., Church, S., Kilduff, L. P., & Brown, M. R. (2023). Performance indicators associated with match outcome within the United Rugby Championship. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 26(1), 63-68.
Rugby Science Update 7
Longitudinal study of six seasons of match injuries in elite female rugby union
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.
The study is published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
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.
Lay of the land: narrative synthesis of tackle research in rugby union and rugby sevens
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.
Burger, N., Lambert, M., & Hendricks, S. (2020). Lay of the land: narrative synthesis of tackle research in rugby union and rugby sevens. BMJ open sport & exercise medicine, 6(1), e000645.
Rugby Science Update 6
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.
Tackle technique and changes in Playerload™ during a simulated tackle: an exploratory study
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.
This study was published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine and free to download.
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.