Marshall University study finds “rugby-style” tackle lessens concussion risk

Marshall Sports

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WOWK) – Two Marshall University professors have found the style of tackling by athletes could potentially reduce the risk for brain injury. Dr. Suzanne Konz and Dr. Zach Garrett are with the School of Kinesiology and are certified athletic trainers. They have been working on a pilot study for four years determining if the style of tackling in rugby has a lower force of impact than the style of tackling in football.

Their study found using the ‘rugby-style’ of tackle decreases the force of impact, and could reduce the risk of concussion.

“This happens slower when you’re actually forced to wrap up and tackle somebody,” Dr. Garrett said. “That means less force is getting to the body and head.”

Their study is the first of its kind and they will be presenting their findings to the American Academy of Neurology at the Sports Concussion Conference in Indianapolis July 26-28.

“One of the big take-home’s is you’ve got to get your head out of the way,” Dr. Garrett said. “Two, is actually tackle somebody. Wrap them up and you’re going to create a lower threshold hit to yourself and even to the person that you’re hitting.”

“If it’s coming in this way, we’re still going to have linear acceleration and rotation and that’s going to create a concussive force, potentially,” Dr. Konz said.

Dr. Konz and Dr. Garrett said what’s even more fascinating is before their study was even finished, some of the athletes in the study changed their tackling habits based on the data that was being collected.

“I thought that was really intriguing,” Dr. Garrett said. “Some of them found out they were using their head a lot and changed the way they used it over time.”

Dr. Konz says they’re not stopping with this study. Next, they plan to have football players hit a football sled. Then, they’re going to test players blood to measure what chemicals are being released to the brain on impact.

“We’re going to have football athletes hit the dummy, take some blood, see what happens,” Dr. Konz said. “See if we get some varying levels so we can understand how these markers interplay with this acute, or this, sudden impact.

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