Instrumented mouthguards (iMG) were used to collect head acceleration events (HAE) in men’s professional rugby league matches. Peak linear acceleration (PLA), peak angular acceleration (PAA) and peak change in angular velocity (ΔPAV) were collected using custom-fit iMG set with a 5 g single iMG-axis recording threshold. iMG were fitted to ten male Super League players for thirty-one player matches. Video analysis was conducted on HAE to identify the contact event; impacted player; tackle stage and head loading type. A total of 1622 video-verified HAE were recorded. Approximately three-quarters of HAE (75.7%) occurred below 10 g. Most (98.2%) HAE occurred during tackles (59.3% to tackler; 40.7% to ball carrier) and the initial collision stage of the tackle (43.9%). The initial collision stage resulted in significantly greater PAA and ΔPAV than secondary contact and play the ball tackle stages (p
< 0.001). Indirect HAE accounted for 29.8% of HAE and resulted in significantly greater ΔPAV (p
< 0.001) than direct HAE, but significantly lower PLA (p
< 0.001). Almost all HAE were sustained in the tackle, with the majority occurring during the initial collision stage, making it an area of focus for the development of player protection strategies for both ball carriers and tacklers. League-wide and community-level implementation of iMG could enable a greater understanding of head acceleration exposure between playing positions, cohorts, and levels of play.
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