Oh the stress of coping with injury

Just over two weeks ago the best Gaelic footballer in the country walked off the pitch in O’Moore Park, Portlaoise, in agony, only to discover later that he would see no further action this year, writes Nickey Brennan.

Just over two weeks ago the best Gaelic footballer in the country walked off the pitch in O’Moore Park, Portlaoise, in agony, only to discover later that he would see no further action this year, writes Nickey Brennan.

Colm Cooper’s absence from the GAA pitches is not just a loss to his club, Dr Crokes, to Kerry, but to the game. The term poetry in motion is perhaps overused when describing the play of some, but it aptly fits the great Kerryman.

Cooper will be but one of many players, at club and inter-county level, who will have a much shorter 2014 (playing-wise) than they planned. In the Kerry man’s case he will get the best possible treatment from medical personnel in Ireland and abroad, if necessary.

Unless something untoward happens during his rehabilitation programme we can expect to see him back in action at some stage in 2015. During his long and lonesome rehab days he need look no further than Henry Shefflin for inspiration.

I expect the ’phone calls have already started between the pair. In some respects Colm Cooper and Henry Shefflin are lucky. Both have enjoyed illustrious careers to date. They can both look forward with some confidence, even if retirement is edging closer with each passing year.

All necessary care

As two of the GAA’s brightest stars they are assured of all the necessary care, attention and support from their respective County Boards. It is the same with any inter-county player who gets injured. That is how it should be.

But career threatening injuries are not confined to inter-county players. Club players all over the country incur the same horrific injuries and while they must go through a similar rehab programme as Cooper and Shefflin, it can be a tougher process when club resources are limited.

Everyone reading this piece has a story to tell of a promising player whose playing career was cut short by serious injury. Two players in Kilkenny immediately spring to mind.

Maurice Nolan (O’Loughlin Gaels) and P.J. Delaney (Fenians) would, undoubtedly, be part of the current Kilkenny panel had injury not shortened their careers. Both were outstanding players as their style and commitment was ideally suited to Kilkenny hurling.

They could certainly have expected to be at the height of their hurling careers right now and be a major part of their club and county set-up. But sadly fate decreed otherwise. Nolan and Delaney are typical of many young men who dreamt of a long care

My primary reason for mentioning player injuries is to give a brief synopsis of injuries recorded through the GAA Player Injury Scheme in 2013 when 6,091 injuries were recorded – 3,845 (adult football); 522 (underage football); 1,512 (adult hurling) and 212 (underage hurling).

Almost 30% of recorded cases applied to knee injuries. Gaelic football had a marginally higher percentage of knee injuries than hurling, but what is clear is that these injuries were treble the next categories which covered ankle and shoulder injuries.

Knee injuries alarming

The level of injury statistics available now is obviously much more significant than years ago so it is difficult to make comparisons. The current scale of knee injuries is alarming.

Players now perform on better pitches and there is a wide variety of playing footwear available, so why are so many serious knee injuries occurring? And as we have seen on so many occasions a knee injury can be career-ending.

I was surprised to see that 64 (adult hurling) and 16 (underage hurling) cases were recorded as injuries to players’ teeth. With helmets now compulsory, this statistic is worrying.

While injuries are part of sport, any young person having to retire due to injury should make every other sportsperson grateful that fate has been kindere to them.