Head Acceleration Events During Tackle, Ball-Carry, and Ruck Events in Professional Southern Hemisphere Men's Rugby Union Matches: A Study Using Instrumented Mouthguards

Gregory Roe, Thomas Sawczuk, Cameron Owen, James Tooby, Lindsay Starling, Mark S Gilthorpe, Éanna Falvey, Sharief Hendricks, Karen Rasmussen, Clint Readhead, Danielle Salmon, Keith Stokes, Ross Tucker, Ben Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Describe head acceleration events (HAEs) experienced by professional male rugby union players during tackle, ball-carry, and ruck events using instrumented mouthguards (iMGs). Design: Prospective observational cohort. Methods: Players competing in the 2023 Currie Cup (141 players) and Super Rugby (66 players) seasons wore iMGs. The iMG-recorded peak linear acceleration (PLA) and peak angular acceleration (PAA) were used as in vivo HAE approximations and linked to contact-event data captured using video analysis. Using the maximum PLA and PAA per contact event (HAEmax), ordinal mixed-effects regression models estimated the probabilities of HAEmax magnitude ranges occurring, while accounting for the multilevel data structure. Results: As HAEmax magnitude increased the probability of occurrence decreased. The probability of a HAEmax ≥15g was 0.461 (0.435–0.488) (approximately 1 in every 2) and ≥45g was 0.031 (0.025–0.037) (1 in every 32) during ball carries. The probability of a HAEmax >15g was 0.381 (0.360–0.404) (1 in every 3) and >45g 0.019 (0.015–0.023) (1 in every 53) during tackles. The probability of higher magnitude HAEmax occurring was greatest during ball carries, followed by tackles, defensive rucks and attacking rucks, with some ruck types having similar profiles to tackles and ball carries. No clear differences between positions were observed. Conclusion: Higher magnitude HAEmax were relatively infrequent in professional men's rugby union players. Contact events appear different, but no differences were found between positions. The occurrence of HAEmax was associated with roles players performed within contact events, not their actual playing position. Defending rucks may warrant greater consideration in injury prevention research.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere14676
JournalScandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jun 2024

Data Availability Statement

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author, G.R., upon reasonable request.


  • athlete health
  • collision sport
  • concussion
  • injury prevention
  • instrumented mouthguards
  • monitoring

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation

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