Atack et al. – Understanding Rugby place kick performance through an analysis of kicking leg and torso mechanics

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AIM
The aim of this study was to investigate the technique strategies used by groups of rugby place kickers who achieve different performance outcomes.

METHODS

Thirty male kickers performed maximum range rugby place kicks in a laboratory. Based on the estimated maximum distance of their kicks, the kickers were divided into three groups (long, wide-left and short) and torso and kicking leg mechanics were compared between the groups.

RESULTS & CONCLUSION
The long kickers achieved a substantially faster forward kicking foot velocity at ball contact than the short kickers, having performed substantially more positive hip flexor and knee extensor work during the downswing. The long and wide-left kickers achieved comparable forward foot velocities but used different strategies – long kickers relied on greater positive knee extensor work, whereas wide-left kickers relied on greater positive hip flexor work during the downswing. The greater hip flexor work of the wide-left kickers was accompanied by greater longitudinal thorax rotation, likely due to a ‘tension arc’ across the torso created by the pelvis-thorax separation as previously observed in maximal soccer instep kicking. However, this does not appear to be an advisable strategy for rugby place kicking as the accuracy of the kick is negatively affected.

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