Rugby league ball carrier injuries: The relative importance of tackle characteristics during the European Super League

ADAM NAYLOR, Mike Hopkinson*, Anna Fitzpatrick, Colin Robertson, Ben Jones

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
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Rugby league carries a high injury incidence with 61% of injuries occurring at tackles. The ball carrier has a higher injury incidence than the defender, therefore understanding mechanisms occurring during injurious tackles are important. Given the dynamic, open nature of tackling, characteristics influencing tackle outcome likely encompass complex networks of dependencies. This study aims to identify important classifying characteristics of the tackle related to ball carrier injurious and non-injurious events in rugby league and identify the characteristics capability to correctly classify those events. Forty-one ball carrier injuries were identified and 205 matched non-injurious tackles were identified as controls. Each case and control were analysed retrospectively through video analysis. Random forest models were built to (1) filter tackle characteristics possessing relative importance for classifying tackles resulting in injurious/non-injurious outcomes and (2) determine sensitivity and specificity of tackle characteristics to classify injurious and non-injurious events. Six characteristics were identified to possess relative importance to classify injurious tackles. This included ‘tackler twisted ball carrier’s legs when legs were planted on ground’, ‘the tackler and ball carrier collide heads’, ‘the tackler used body weight to tackle ball carrier’, ‘the tackler has obvious control of the ball carrier’ ‘the tackler was approaching tackle sub-maximally’ and ‘tackler’s arms were below shoulder level, elbows were flexed’. The study identified tackle characteristics that can be modified in attempt to reduce injury. Additional injury data are needed to establish relationship networks of characteristics and analyse specific injuries. Sensitivity and specificity results of the random forest were 0.995 and 0.525.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Journal of Sport Science
Publication statusPublished - 19 Nov 2020


  • Rugby League
  • injury
  • Tackle
  • Ball carrier
  • Random forests


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