University of Newcastle research has found that retraining rugby league players to tackle with a technique that former Newcastle Knight Timana Tahu has championed could be a viable strategy to reduce concussion injuries.
The research, funded by the NRL, involved the use of video game technology to accurately measure tackling techniques.
Dr Suzi Edwards, a biomechanist, said the research showed "we can coach players to change their technique within a session".
The progress comes amid heated discussion about the handling of concussion in rugby league and other sports.
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The research began with Mr Tahu - a former Knights premiership winner - looking for scientific evidence based on his belief that tackling technique should be changed.
He believed that the traditional "cheek to cheek" technique heightened concussion risk. This involves a player tackling with his face cheek towards an opponent's bum cheek or pelvic area.
He thought this technique made the tackler's head vulnerable to contact with bones, along with concerns about the tackler's head being lowered. He believed the tackler should target the abdominal region.
Dr Edwards believes the sport of rugby league may be at risk in the coming decades because of the concussion problem.
Concussion is considered a traumatic brain injury. Such injuries stretch and bruise nerves and blood vessels, causing chemical changes in the brain that lead to a temporary loss of normal brain function.
The researchers aim to tackle this problem by examining ways to "reduce the risk of sustaining a concussion when tackling".
The NRL research committee funded the research, which involved Dr Edwards, Mr Tahu and neuropsychologist Associate Professor Andrew Gardner.
The trio are now working with the NRL on its coaching manual, titled Tackle Safe. They will provide evidence on whether the manual should be modified.
"We work together because they have specialist research skills and I'm a specialist at being a professional athlete," Mr Tahu said.
"Knowledge is important and that's where the university plays a role. I want parents and kids to have the best information available."
Dr Edwards believes the research can help revolutionise the sport and "how tackling is taught from under sixes to the elite level".
The study used 3D motion capture cameras in the university's biomechanics lab.
"You can film with this 3D motion capture and reanimate someone's three-dimensional technique. That's the gold standard," she said.
"We have the player's come into the biomechanics lab and we'd put markers on them. Then we'd film them with these special high-speed cameras to reconstruct their 3D motion.
"We could accurately measure their head acceleration and whether they were flexing at the hips or more upright."
This technology is also used for video games and animated films.
"With animation, they film people doing the movements and put the graphics over it. If you watch a Tony Hawk skating video game, they've filmed him with this and then added the animation."
'It all started from Timana'
It was 20 years ago that Newcastle Knight Timana Tahu first began to think about concussion.
Mr Tahu was knocked out and became concerned about his health and safety.
So he began to explore different tackling techniques to reduce risk.
University of Newcastle researchers are now showing that Mr Tahu's technique has merit.
"It all started from Timana," said Dr Suzi Edwards, an expert in biomechanics.
"We've developed this partnership together. He was in the lab - he helped me analyse the data and review it. He's been extensively involved from the concept to data collection."
She said Mr Tahu's tackling philosophy made sense from a biomechanical perspective.
"Tackling is where all the injuries occur," she said.