concussion; motion capture; sport

Could lowering the tackle height law to below the chest in rugby union reduce long-term brain degeneration?

The tackle height law in rugby union has been an area of concern for many years. It is currently set at the line of the ball carrier’s shoulder. The goal of this study is to use Model-Based Image-Matching (MBIM) and human volunteer tackles in a marker-based 3D motion analysis laboratory to examine the severity of a legal tackle to the shoulder/chest of the ball carrier (with no head contact) and the effect of tackles above and below the chest on ball carrier inertial head kinematics, respectively. From the real-world tackles, the estimated ball carrier peak resultant change in head angular velocity was 30.4 rad/s (23.1 rad/s, 14.0 rad/s and 21.8 rad/s in the coronal, sagittal and transverse direction, respectively). In the staged tackles, the median peak resultant head linear and angular acceleration and change in head angular velocity values for tackles above the chest were greater than for below the chest. The results support the proposition of lowering the current tackle height law. Due to the real-world tackle (MBIM), the ball carrier head kinematics indicated a greater than 75% chance of sustaining a concussion, based on the literature. This was the case even though no contact was made with the ball carrier’s head. Therefore, repeatedly engaging in this type of legal tackle may be detrimental for long-term brain health. However, by lowering the tackle height law to below the chest, ball carrier inertial head kinematics can be reduced significantly, thus reducing the repetitive loading placed on the brain.
Listed In: Biomechanical Engineering, Biomechanics, Sports Science