Picture of Wimbledon Clinics

Wimbledon Clinics

Rugby tackles with incorrect head positioning linked to higher injury risk

Contact us for an appointment

*At Wimbledon Clinics we comply with the provisions of the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act (UK). We will never share your data without your permission and we will only use your data how you’ve asked us to. Please let us know if you’d like to join our mailing list to receive updates about our specialist consultants, the latest treatments for orthopaedic and sports injuries and prevention tips for common injuries.

For more information, click here to view our privacy policy


In rugby, the tackler’s head position during one-on-one tackles has a bearing on the risk of head, neck and shoulder injuries, a new study shows.

Japanese researchers analysed videos of 28 rugby games involving two university teams in competitions held in 2015 and 2016. Tackles were categorised according to tackler’s head position.

There were a total of 3,970 tackles, including 317 (8%) with the tackler’s head incorrectly positioned (i.e. in front of the ball carrier).

According to World Rugby, the sport’s governing body, the tackler must be positioned behind or to one side of the ball carrier.

A World Rugby spokesperson told Reuters Health by email: “When we did our own comprehensive head injury study in late 2016, the specialist working group identified technique as a key focus area, and the tackle law amendment in January was aimed at adjusting the technique of the tackler to remove the player from the area of greatest risk.”

In the Japanese study, there were 32 head, neck or shoulder injuries, giving an injury incidence of 0.8%.

Concussions, neck injuries, ‘stingers’ and nasal fractures occurred significantly more often during tackles with incorrect head positioning than during tackles with correct head positioning, the researchers found. The incidence of injury in tackles with incorrect head positioning was 69.4/1000 tackles, while the injury incidence with correct head positioning was 2.7/1000 tackles.

The study also showed that more injuries occurred during tackles preceded by a shorter time and distance before contact.

“This particular study supports our evidence-based position that the promotion of correct technique in the tackle has significant injury-prevention benefits,” the World Rugby spokesperson said.

However, the results may not be generalisable to all rugby players because of the small sample size consisting only of collegiate players, as well as differences in the teams’ levels, tactics and coaching methods.

The findings have been published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.