Should football players tackle across the bow or cheek to cheek?

In football-speak going across the bow means tackling with the head in front of the ball carrier. Rugby players are taught to tackle cheek to cheek with the head behind the ball carrier. Should football players tackle across the bow or cheek to cheek?

This video shows what happened to helmet-less tacklers who went across the bow on Rennie Ranger.

Football coaches teach players to go across the bow because they believe its more effective and delivers a harder blow. This is also called biting the ball. The tackler targets the ball carrier’s far arm to knock the ball loose with his helmet.

Rennie makes a great argument against tackling across the bow. Rugby players are taught to tackle cheek to cheek to avoid the type of punishment dished out by Rennie in this clip. But helmets allow football players to tackle across the bow safely. Right?

Wrong. A recent study presented at the American Academy of Neurology‘s annual meeting supports the idea that football players should tackle head behind. The study found that football helmets only reduce the risk of traumatic brain injury by 20%. They do little to protect against brain injuries caused by rotational forces, which can include blows to the side of the head. Just like those dished out by Rennie.

Evidence suggests tackling across the bow is a dangerous technique even for helmeted football players. Football coaches should stop teaching players to “go across the bow” and “bite the ball” and start teaching them head behind tackling.


American Academy of Neurology (AAN). “How well do football helmets protect players from concussions?.” ScienceDaily. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140217200751.htm (accessed September 3, 2015).

One thought on “Should football players tackle across the bow or cheek to cheek?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s