Rugby World Cup: concussion rates drop following high tackle sanction

World Rugby announced that concussion rates during the Japan 2019 World Cup have reduced by 12% when compared with the 2015 Rugby World Cup following the new high tackle sanction.

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Japan 2019 is the first Rugby World Cup to implement the High Tackle Sanction Framework, which is designed to reduce the risk of concussion by changing player behavior. Following this, World Rugby have announced a 35% reduction in concussion incidence compared with 22 current elite adult competitions, plus a reduction in match injuries when compared with the 2015 World Cup.

The high tackle sanction was introduced this year following research that discovered that the high tackle was the cause of 76% of concussions and that 72% of tacklers sustained a concussion.

The positive player welfare results include:

  • Reduction of injury replacements, from an average of 2.08 per match in 2015 to 1.13 in 2019 (10.5 concussion per 1000 play hours in 2019 compared with 12.5 concussions in 2015)
  • Concussion rates at Japan 2019 reduced by 12% when compared with the 2015 Rugby World Cup
  • No delayed concussions have been reported, most likely due to the application of Head Injury Assessment process
  • Few concussions occurring due to tackles as players change to the lower acceptable height

Although the new lower tackles have reduced the risk of concussion, the players at the most risk are still the tacklers.

         Our commitment to player welfare is unwavering and a core pillar of our strategies is to reduce injuries. It is highly encouraging that Rugby World Cup 2019 has demonstrated extremely positive outcomes in this priority area,” commented World Rugby Chairman, Bill Beaumont.

World Rugby aim to provide the best standard of care to each of the players by using an evidence-based approach.

          At this tournament and in the tests since May, we have been looking to protect players by changing culture and getting the tackler lower. These very positive outcomes suggest that the teams have embraced the challenge and that risk has lowered at this Rugby World Cup, which is very encouraging,” commented World Rugby Chief Medical Officer, Martin Raftery.

The Rugby World Cup is a major platform to showcase the best practice of the sport and an example for all levels of game play. Therefore, World Rugby have also relaunched their educational concussion app to deliver a comprehensive education and management tool for all levels of the game.

         While concussion rates are reducing owing to greater awareness, management and prevention strategies, we must and will continue to adopt an evidence-based approach to injury-prevention across all areas of the game as per the recommendations of this year’s Marcoussis conference,” explained Raftery.



What is the high tackle sanction? 

The high tackle sanction is part of the approved six law amendments by the World Rugby Executive Committee. Players must reduce tackle height to the waist in order to reduce the risk of head injuries for both the tackler and tackled player otherwise will receive a sanction for dangerous game play. 
Learn more about the approved six law amendments here.

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Kimberley Ndungu

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