Super League head contact dramatically reduced as new data underlines law changes

Aaron Bower
Fa'amanu Brown, Ben Currie

The head-on-head collision between Fa'amanu Brown & Ben Currie in a tackle towards the end of the first half which saw Brown dismissed

Tackles around head and neck height, as well as head-on-head collisions, have been dramatically reduced in the opening three months of the new Super League season, Love Rugby League can reveal.

The RFL introduced a raft of law changes in the winter designed at reducing the amount of contact around the head in rugby league – including introducing stricter punishments for tackles around the head.

Those changes were met with extreme backlash in the opening weeks of the season amidst a litany of penalties, charges and suspensions – but data from the first three months suggests those changes have led to a dramatic shift in player behaviour.

Since the governing body began collating data on tackle height in 2018, around 13 per cent of all tackles were made at around head or neck height. This year, however, that figure has reduced to just 4.2 per cent, effectively meaning there are several hundred fewer tackles making contact with the head this season.

Concussion rates per 1000 hours of play have gone down, too. Last year, there were 18.2 diagnosed concussions for every 1000 hours of game-time; that figure has reduced to 15.63 this year, a number which is expected to drop further in the months and years ahead as further law changes are introduced.

LRL EXCLUSIVE: Warrington Wolves among clubs interested in off-contract Huddersfield Giants star

There has also been a significant increase in the number of Super League players wearing instrumented mouthguards, Love Rugby League has been told, which help determine how at-risk a player is of a head injury and enabling them to be removed from the action.

Over 75 per cent of Super League players are wearing the guards this year, up from 15 per cent last year – and the expectation is that concussion rates will decrease in the coming months and years: particularly when the sport lowers the legal limit for contact to below the armpit at professional level from next year.

A potential change in player behaviour is underlined by the fact that the amount of penalties awarded per round this year has stabilised to last year’s average. The opening round of this Super League season saw a record 90 penalties awarded: that has reduced to below 60 in recent weeks, with last year’s average 58 penalties per round across the six fixtures.

READ NEXT: Leigh Leopards’ Papua New Guinea star to make return with forward still sidelined