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Rugby union reveals new concussion mitigation measures

The Rugby Football Union, the governing body of rugby union in the UK, has announced that it will trial a new lower tackle height in a bid to reduce concussions in the sport.

The legal tackle height in the Championship Cup, the second tier of rugby union in the UK, has been lowered to below the armpits rather than the line of the shoulders.

“We believe lowering the height of the tackle will benefit both the ball carrier and the tackler,” Nigel Melville, RFU professional rugby director, said. “It will be a critical part of helping us develop game-wide approaches to concussion and injury reduction.”

The move follows a similar trial launched by World Rugby at the World Rugby U20 Championship Trophy and announced earlier this year.

Both trials indicate the serious nature that professional and amateur sporting bodies are taking towards concussion as the risk comes into clearer focus.

Steve van Leeuwen, National Head of Sport at Gallagher, said that changes that could help reduce the incidence of concussions are welcome and highlight how seriously sports organisations are taking the risk.

“Each of the major codes has a concussion plan in place that is constantly evolving as more medical information comes to light,” van Leeuwen said.

“Whether it is in the form of baseline testing, in-depth head injury assessments, sport rule changes or mandated sit-out periods, leagues and teams are responding to the challenges head injuries present.”

A study completed by World Rugby found that 76% of head injuries in the game occur in the tackle, with 72% impacting the tackler. The study also found that the risk of injury to both players from a high-contact tackle (when the tackle is upright) is 4.3 times greater than a low-contact tackle as head-on-head contact in a similar position is 6.5 times more likely to result in a head injury than a head-to-hip tackle.

Van Leeuwen said that it is not only the sporting community coming to terms with concussion risk, but the medical and insurance industry too, but each has a common goal.

“While the sporting, medical and insurance communities come to grips with the impact of sports-related concussions, we must not lose sight of the players themselves. Sport plays an integral part in our society, but safety must come first,” van Leeuwen continued.

“Continued education and awareness on concussion rules and protocols is, therefore, paramount for players’ ongoing welfare.”

This challenge of insuring sports concussion injuries is explored in greater detail in the latest Gallagher Market Overview Report, Trust & Data: Into the Breach, which was published on 30 July. The report is available as a digital download.

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