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The study named “Risk factor for head injury events in professional rugby union: a video analysis of 464 head injury events to inform proposed
injury prevention strategies” was conducted by a group of research
scientists. It proved that more head as well as high risk injuries occur during both head-on and high tackles.

“The tackle is the most injurious match event in Rugby Union, accounting for between 40% and 60% of all match injuries.” This is a direct quote from an article published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2017. This year, during the Maties Koshuis Rugby season, a trial of a law variation will be implemented, where the height of a legal tackle will be reduced from the shoulder to the armpit line.

The Institute of Sport and Exercise Medicine (ISEM), in collaboration with the University of Cape Town (UCT) and the University of Bath, is studying whether this injury prevention strategy could reduce head injuries in the game of rugby. The study is funded by World Rugby. Stellenbosch University’s Dr James Brown is the Principal Investigator of the study, which forms part of the ISEM’s Injury and Illness Surveillance and Pre-
vention research trust.

According to Prof Ross Tucker, a research scientist for World Rugby, there is extensive data which shows that the tackler is most likely to be concussed, especially when they are in an upright position and/or during head to head contact. The law variation aims to get the tackler and ball carriers’ head out of the same airspace, thus protecting both players.

Prof Tucker also stated: “I want to emphasise that bringing the height of the tackle down does not change the way that the referee views the high tackle, it just changes the threshold for when he gives penalties and other sanctions when a high tackle is seen.”

The law variation trial focuses on protecting players, not penalising them callously. The Koshuis tournament started on 30 July and is running until 15 October. Match nights are every Tuesday to Friday night starting at
17:00. Injury recorders will assist medical staff in recording relevant injury details. The games will also be filmed for research purposes.

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