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December 17, 2020

Validating Tackle Mechanics in American Football: Improving Safety & Performance


Validating Tackle Mechanics in American Football: Improving Safety and Performance


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Research has helped to understand the risks of injuries of tackling in American football and rugby; however, approaches to teaching and analysis are not well-documented. Shoulder-led tackling has been proposed as a safer approach to tackling even though data on the effectiveness of safety and defensive performance is limited. Additionally, some have argued that safety and effectiveness are incompatible. The purpose of the study was to validate a specific sequence of tackling actions as a tool for teaching safer and more effective tackling skills. Results suggested tackle scores help predict the presence of head contact, and that higher tackle scores were associated with reductions in Yards After Contact (YAC).

Eight hundred and thirty-two (832) American high school football tackles were rated using a 12- element rating system. Estimated Structural Equation Modeling (ESEM) was employed to identify the factor structure of the elements with three factors identified: Track, Engage and Finish. ANOVA, along with logistic and linear equation models were run to determine relationships between tackle scores and outcomes. Tackle scores predicted head-contact category (binary logistic regression accuracy = .76). Yards after contact (YAC) were significantly reduced [Finish factor: MANOVA F(3, 828) = 105.825, p < .001]. Construct and predictive validity were demonstrated and show that these tackle elements provide valid foci for teaching better tackling as well as analyzing both teaching effectiveness and performance.

Arthur C. Maerlender
Caitlin J. Masterson
Rex Norris
Adam Hinthorne

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