Thursday
September 21, 2017

Welfare and safety of the players is the top priority for rugby

Friday, January 6, 2017

New rules to tackle head injuries

By Frankie Deges / For the Herald

The welfare of the sport’s players has been at the top of rugby’s agenda for a few seasons now and it is very important that it continues to stay there. Head injuries, in the wake of what has been happening in American Football, have been pushed to the top of the agenda and they should stay there.

World Rugby has decided on a zero-tolerance approach to reckless and accidental head contact and starting Tuesday, January 3, the rules have been changed in order to ensure player safety in the tackle area.

After a deep investigation and a considerable amount of research, World Rugby has come up with changes that will preserve even more the wellbeing of players, reducing the risk of injury. It has redefined the illegal (high) tackle categories, increasing sanctions and penalties at all levels of the game. Minimum on-field sanctions for reckless and accidental contact with the head, have been introduced. What is basically being done is effectively lowering the acceptable height of a tackle.

PRO Rugby, the professional league that only lasted a season in the United States, came up with a great idea last year: shirts had a red-line to show what was the highest a tackle could be made.

How the game will adapt to the changes is hard to imagine until we see how coaches and players adjust, although it shouldn’t alter the sport dramatically as basically the new rules put into words what we all already knew: the head is a no-go area!

The new definitions are the following:

Reckless tackle — a player is deemed to have made reckless contact during a tackle or attempted tackle or during other phases of the game if in making contact, the player knew or should have known that there was a risk of making contact with the head of an opponent, but did so anyway. This sanction applies even if the tackle starts below the line of the shoulders. This type of contact also applies to grabbing and rolling or twisting around the head/neck area even if the contact starts below the line of the shoulders. Sanctions: Yellow card (minimum), Red card (maximum).

Accidental tackle — When making contact with another player during a tackle or attempted tackle or during other phases of the game, if a player makes accidental contact with an opponent’s head, either directly or where the contact starts below the line of the shoulders, the player may still be sanctioned. This includes situations where the ball-carrier slips into the tackle. Minimum sanction: Penalty

Head injuries have required a real change in culture. Whilst in years gone it was the macho thing to do to stay on the field despite the state one was in ­ it must be remembered that substitutions have only been happening since the 1970s — now everybody acknowledges that the head must be well looked after.

In this respect, 76 percent of head injuries according to a recent research come at the tackle area; the incidence of injury for the tackler is more than two-and-a-half times greater than the ball-carrier and that tackle height is a contributing factor.

Therefore, a deep education programme will work to ensure more and more players stay fit and healthy within the limits of the game.

@frankiedeges

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