‘How to Tackle: Avoiding Head Injuries and Stopping the Opponent’ by Jack Stimson

I have been playing rugby for 7 years now, and since my first practice as a novice until my current season as a senior at the University of Washington, tackling has been of the utmost importance. As many know, rugby is a game played without pads and as a result many think that it is an unsafe game, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. One way in which rugby is safer, than say football, is due to the style of tackling that is emphasized. A rugby tackle involves making contact with your shoulder and hugging the opponent’s legs while simultaneously keeping your cheek pressed against their hip and driving the opponent backwards with your legs. The key component of this tackling sequence is making contact with your shoulder while keeping your head to the side of the opponent’s body.


Proper rugby tackling technique. 

In comparison, football players who have a helmet to protect their heads, often utilize it as a weapon in their tackles. Watch any NFL game and you’ll see players flying into a tackle with their heads leading the way. A helmet to many football players is a false sense of security. Rather than learning to keep their heads out of tackles, football players across all levels of play think because they have a helmet they are protected from the impacts of tackling. This false sense of security often leads directly to head injuries with the most common being concussions. What’s more is that often players sustain multiple mini-concussions during the course of a game, which add up throughout their career and can lead to neurological problems down the road. Jim McMahon, a famous quarterback for the 1985 Super Bowl winning Chicago Bears, has long since retired from the league, yet still feels the impacts of multiple head injuries he sustained while playing. According to Sports Illustrated, McMahon suffers from depression and early onset dementia as a result of years of small head injuries. There are even days when he can’t find his way home or has to spend all day in a dark room due to his crippling head pain.

Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks are one of the front-runners in the NFL in terms of head trauma prevention thanks to the unlikely pairing of the Seattle rugby company Serevi and the Seahawks themselves. Waisale Serevi, a world famous Fijian rugby star and founder of the Serevi rugby company, has visited the Seahawks training facilities numerous times preaching the rugby tackling method.


Defensive back Richard Sherman utilizing a proper tackling technique in the Seahawks’ Super Bowl win against the Denver Broncos.  

While working closely with the Seahawks players and staff, Serevi exemplified the proper rugby tackling technique and benefits of keeping your head out of the tackle. Minimizing concussions and traumatic head injuries in the NFL is of the utmost importance, but the change towards proper rugby tackling cannot be made only at the top level. Kids start playing tackle football at a young age and if proper tackling techniques aren’t implemented early on they could easily sustain traumatic injuries that could possibly hinder proper neurological brain development.

Concussions have been a part of football since day one, but they no longer have to be. There is something to be learned from the way rugby is played and how players safely avoid traumatic head injuries by taking their head out of the tackles.


The author using an excellent tackling technique. 

-Jack Stimson