Two Marshall University faculty members in the School of Kinesiology have determined the style of tackling used in rugby may be associated with a lower force of impact than the style used in football. Their preliminary study of college athletes was released July 16 and will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology Sports Concussion Conference in Indianapolis July 26–28.

Dr. Zach Garrett, study author and director for the school’s athletic training program, said this particular study evaluated the effects tackling style had on impacts encountered by athletes playing football and rugby. Garrett said he began working on this project four years ago with Dr. Suzanne Konz, director of the school’s biomechanics program.

“The hope is to decrease higher impact hits by evaluating tackling style and ultimately decrease exposures of concussive events in football. Dr. Konz and I started testing equipment in the lab setting prior to moving to the data collection of subjects during practices and games.  We chose to explore this area because mTBI (mild Traumatic Brain Injury) or concussive events are an epidemic in sports, particularly football.  If there’s a way to make the game safer for players and enhance the quality of care athletic trainers provide by tracking impacts and hits, we are all for finding a way.”

Konz said athlete health should be the concern of every institution and organization sponsoring sports. 

“The implications of keeping athletes safe and healthy during their participation in a sport and after they are done playing should be paramount. Quality of life post-athletics is a major health concern, currently,” Konz said. “For institutions and organizations who sponsor sports, it’s an ethical question as well as a financial and legal concern. By taking a proactive stance on athlete health, risk of injury and their possible subsequent effects to quality of life will hopefully be minimized.”

Students in the university’s athletic training and biomechanics programs are taught evidence-based practice (EBP) and the research conducted by Garrett and Konz is a means to demonstrate EBP in the classroom.

“This experience has given several of our students in athletic training and biomechanics the ability to participate in data collections, utilize advanced technologies and learn how to apply their findings in order to enhance player safety and health care.  We’ve had several students present aspects of our current research regionally and nationally,” Garrett said. “We hope to continue our research in this area and are currently seeking external funding to assist with the next step of the project due to limited internal funding.  The next step includes evaluating biomarkers that are altered in the athletes’ bloodwork post concussive event.”

To learn more about Marshall’s concussion research, contact Garrett by e-mail at or Zonz at For more information about the AAN’s Sports Concussion Guidelines and access resources, visit Students interested in School of Kinesiology programs should visit to learn more.

Originally from Megan Archer for Marshall University Communications