Momentum and kinetic energy before the tackle in rugby union

J Sports Sci Med. 2014 Sep 1;13(3):557-63. eCollection 2014 Sep.


Understanding the physical demands of a tackle in match situations is important for safe and effective training, developing equipment and research. Physical components such as momentum and kinetic energy, and it relationship to tackle outcome is not known. The aim of this study was to compare momenta between ball-carrier and tackler, level of play (elite, university and junior) and position (forwards vs. backs), and describe the relationship between ball-carrier and tackler mass, velocity and momentum and the tackle outcome. Also, report on the ball-carrier and tackler kinetic energy before contact and the estimated magnitude of impact (energy distributed between ball-carrier and tackler upon contact). Velocity over 0.5 seconds before contact was determined using a 2-dimensional scaled version of the field generated from a computer alogorithm. Body masses of players were obtained from their player profiles. Momentum and kinetic energy were subsequently calculated for 60 tackle events. Ball-carriers were heavier than the tacklers (ball-carrier 100 ± 14 kg vs. tackler 93 ± 11 kg, d = 0.52, p = 0.0041, n = 60). Ball-carriers as forwards had a significantly higher momentum than backs (forwards 563 ± 226 Kg(.)m(.)s(-1) n = 31 vs. backs 438 ± 135 Kg(.)m(.)s(-1), d = 0.63, p = 0.0012, n = 29). Tacklers dominated 57% of tackles and ball-carriers dominated 43% of tackles. Despite the ball-carrier having a mass advantage before contact more frequently than the tackler, momentum advantage and tackle dominance between the ball-carrier and tackler was proportionally similar. These findings may reflect a characteristic of the modern game of rugby where efficiently heavier players (particularly forwards) are tactically predetermined to carry the ball in contact. Key PointsFirst study to quantify momentum, kinetic energy, and magnitude of impact in rugby tackles across different levels in matches without a device attached to a player.Physical components alone, of either ball-carrier or tackler, are not good predictors of tackle dominance.The range of magnitudes of impact of injury free tackles observed in this study provides evidence for the physical tolerance of players during the tackle.

Keywords: Tackle; contact sports; kinetic energy; momentum; rugby union.