Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Safety in Contact – Two-Arm Tackles vs One-Arm Tackles

By Calder Schweitzer

By nature, quidditch is a very physical sport. It is not uncommon to see paramedics at a tournament carrying a player off the field. This is not only extremely unfortunate for the affected player, but it also results in heavily delayed games, and by extension, tournaments. While severe injuries are a reality for any contact sport, I have seen few as brutal as the ones incurred in quidditch.

A tackle in progress | Photo Credit: Isabella Gong Photography

Having played rugby for 10 years, I have taken part in hundreds of individual tackles, both as a tackler and as a receiver. One thing that was always made extremely clear in rugby training was that you never make a tackle with one arm. While this seems like common sense to those of us with contact sports experience, it is understandable that not everyone has the same background in contact sports. As such, I aim to educate the reader on the dangers of one-arm tackling and explain why two-arm tackling needs to be the future of contact in quidditch.

As it currently stands in quidditch, if a player wishes to make a tackle that will bring another player to the ground, the primary way to do it is to enter the tackle with enough forward momentum to physically knock the tackled player off their feet. In a two-armed tackle, the tackler does not need to have this sort of momentum because the second arm allows them to bring the tackled player to the ground through the use of proper form as opposed to brute force. While two-armed tackles often look more painful, they are actually much safer because the tackler is able to guide the tackled player to the ground, instead of just trying to knock them over. This also serves to benefit smaller players who may not be able to use their size to bring people to the ground, but who can instead use their form and the tackled player’s momentum to complete a tackle.

The movements of the tackled player also come into play. Quidditch is very much a “finesse sport,” like hockey or football. Good players will be able to cut around potential tacklers to avoid the hit. In this scenario, a player trying to make a tackle would have to reach outward to get a hand on the other player. In a one-arm tackle scenario, this means the tackler must try to hold on while the other player runs (usually at full speed), sort of like a 1 vs. 1 version of Red Rover. There is a reason Red Rover was banned in schools: this type of motion can cause severe shoulder injuries, and while reaching for a tackle is dangerous even with two arms, the ability to use the second arm to bring yourself closer to your intended target makes this maneuver significantly safer. If you commit to a reaching tackle with one arm, you are put in a weaker position and continuing to hold on in that weak position can and has caused shoulder injuries.

University of British Columbia chaser Austin Wallace charging through a one arm tackle. | Photo Credit: Mills Photography

On the pitch you often hear conversations that sound like this: “There’s no way I can tackle [insert player name here], I’m way too small,” or, “I’m not big enough to make tackles, so I just try to stop a pass or otherwise get in the way.” Quidditch is a sport that is very good at accommodating all shapes and sizes of people, but when it comes to tackling, there is an obvious divide between the ability of larger people to make effective tackles and the ability of smaller people to do the same thing. This leaves a lot of smaller chasers wondering what they are supposed to do on defense when the opposing team is taking a run for the hoops and they are the last one back. Often, it seems that they either valiantly try to stop the charging player (often getting flattened in the process), or they concede and allow the hoop to go in uncontested.

With the implementation of two-arm tackling, these scenarios can be changed drastically. The beauty of a two-armed tackle is that brute strength plays a very small role. In rugby, I have seen people take down players two – or even three – times their size simply by using proper form in a two-armed tackle. Implementing this into quidditch would allow for a more level playing field.

This can work in favour of smaller players on offense as well. In a two-armed tackle, the tackler must make an attempt to lower their contact shoulder to the height of their intended tackled player’s hips, as correct form dictates. This would obviously prove challenging for tall players, giving the shorter players an advantage when it comes to either evading or breaking potential tackles.

Another argument that is made against one-arm tackles are the brooms. Worries that they will get in the way or get tangled up in a tackle are legitimate concerns. Any scenario where a player on-broom is tackled can be potentially dangerous, as the broom can stick into the ground, land unpredictably, or even break.

Oklahoma State University chaser Hayden Applebee takes on Austin Quidditch keeper Logan Nelson with a one-arm tackle | Photo Credit: Alex Russell

There is a case to be made that two-arm tackles can actually reduce danger in this form as well. By initiating a tackle with two arms, the player making the tackle must, obviously, release their broom and hold it between their legs (in the same form as a two-handed catch). Anybody who has tried running without holding their broom knows that it is very difficult to move quickly. Forcing players to initiate tackles with both arms would subsequently force them to slow down in starting their tackles, lessening the overall impact of the hit, as well as allowing more control and putting even more importance on executing the tackle with proper form. If you are moving slower to avoid dropping your broom, you are going to have more time to correct body position. Less velocity equals less force upon impact. A tackle executed with proper form should almost never put either player in danger because of their broom.

Overall, two-arm tackles are much safer than one-arm tackles. While the latter is based in size, momentum, and brute force, the former is based in safety, technique, and skill. With the frequency of quidditch-related injuries and trips to the hospital becoming a norm for tournaments, one has to question how we can make the sport we love safer. The onus is on the national governing bodies to investigate how to do this, and as someone who has played contact sports since the age of 12, I urge NGBs to consider the dangers that the current system of one-armed tackles presents, and how the implementation of a two-armed tackling system can make the game safer and minimize time lost in injury delays.

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