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Logo of bmjThis ArticleThe BMJ
BMJ. 2007 June 16; 334(7606): 1235.
PMCID: PMC1892488
Safer Play in Rugby

Time to address safety in the tackle

Alastair P Greystoke, research fellow, medical oncology

As an amateur rugby referee who spent the 2005 season refereeing in New Zealand and took part in the RugbySmart campaign I was interested to read the analysis by Quarrie et al of its impact on spinal injuries.1 As they point out, most of the reduction in injuries was accounted for by a reduction in scrum related injuries. Whether a similar campaign would be equally effective in Britain is unclear, given the recent 2006 changes in the scrum engagement procedure; but as pointed out in the accompanying editorial it can certainly do no harm.2

The paper highlighted another area of concern; seven out of eight spinal injuries occurred at the tackle. Over the past 10 years there has been an increase in the high impact, chest high “ball and all” tackle. This area of the game is now associated with the most injuries,3 and this type of tackle puts the tackling player at risk of a head on torso collision and spinal injury.

Instead of further debates over banning the scrum we should concentrate on improving the safety at the tackle area by legislation and educational initiatives similar to those described by Quarrie et al.


Competing interests: APG is a rugby referee who took part in the RugbySmart campaign.


1. Quarrie KL, Gianotti SM, Hopkins WG, Hume PA. Effect of nationwide injury prevention programme on serious spinal injuries in New Zealand rugby union: ecological study. BMJ 2007;334:1150-3. (2 June.) [PMC free article] [PubMed]
2. Noakes TD, Draper CE. Preventing spinal cord injuries in rugby union. BMJ 2007;334:1122-3. (2 June.) [PMC free article] [PubMed]
3. Fuller CW, Brooks JH, Cancea RJ, Hall J, Kemp SP. Contact events in rugby union and their propensity to cause injury. Br J Sports Med 2007; May 18. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 1751. 3332. [PMC free article] [PubMed]

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