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  • Writer's pictureJay Kasthuriarachchi

5 Step Plan To Return To Contact and Tackling

With winter sports just around the corner, lots of tackle based sports are returning to the field for preseason training. One of the most common injuries in these sports are shoulder injuries from getting tackled, or making a tackle

Before returning to full sport, it is important that you are able to safely tackle, wrestle and make contact with the injured shoulder. Here is a basic return to contact program we run here at SportsFit

  1. Force Production Drills

After ensuring the shoulder is stable and strong, the first stage in the return to contact continuum is making sure the shoulder can produce force. These exercises include standard gym based exercises such as

  • Military Press

  • Kettlebell Bell Overhead Press

  • Bench Press or Chest Press

This can turn into power based exercises such as

  • Medicine Ball Throw

  • Medicine Ball Overhead Toss

  • Push Up (Focusing on a fast push)

  • Fending/pushing an opponent away

2. Force Absorption Drills

The second stage is being able to absorb force, i.e. taking a hit. These drills may include

  • Medicine Ball Catches

  • Front Fall

  • Side Fall

  • Clap Push Up

3. Sport Specific (introduction)

Now that we have ensured the shoulder can absorb and produce force safely, we move onto basic sport specific drills. We now need to make sure the player has good technique with tackling and wrestling.

Some drills to do so include

  • Tackling a shield (making sure they get up and under and hit with their shoulder, and that they don’t ‘catch’ with their arms)

  • Pummeling an opponent on their knees

  • Pummeling an opponent on their feet

  • Play the ball technique (Rugby League specific)

  • Walk through a tackle

4. Sport Specific (chaotic)

The next step is now to include chaos, or a competitive element to the above

  • Pummeling an opponent, and trying to get them onto their back (starting on knees, and progressing to feet).

  • 2 on 1 and 3 on 1 tackle

The last drill you can vary the speed and intensity. Encouraging the ball carrier to reach the ‘try line’ will make it that little bit more intense as well.

Here are an example of a few of these drills here

5. Reintegration to full team training

The last step is integrating the player back to full training. It is important here to make sure that the player is fit enough to be able to keep up with training, as a lot of shoulder injuries in tackling can occur due to poor body positioning or technique due to fatigue


These 5 steps should occur over the course of at least 2 weeks, ideally 4. Other considerations that can help with integrating back to contact include shoulder strapping, and ‘maintenance’ exercises throughout the season.

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