Injuries - the costs and so on can be massive

The serious injury suffered by the Cork hurler Paudie O’Sullivan again places the spotlight on the injuries which afflict GAA players around the country almost every weekend, writes Nickey Brennan.

The serious injury suffered by the Cork hurler Paudie O’Sullivan again places the spotlight on the injuries which afflict GAA players around the country almost every weekend, writes Nickey Brennan.

The injuries suffered by inter-county players get plenty of headlines, but unfortunately club players are not immune from serious injuries either.

Over the past couple of years serious injuries resulted from a number of innocuous incidents plus, sadly in some cases, gross carelessness on the part of fellow players. The immediate impact of any serious injury may well be a player’s inability to work.

That can have major implications, particularly where a mortgage has to be paid. Health insurance and the GAA’s Player Injury Scheme help to cover at least some of the costs, but the reality is that some players who suffer serious injures find it difficult to cope.

Inter-county players are generally well looked after by their County Boards. That was a contentious matter some years ago which got a lot of focus from the GPA.

This was one of a number of matters under the heading of player welfare which saw the GPA and GAA at loggerheads. Thankfully such issues are now very rare.

Whenever a hurler or footballer receives a serious injury he needs an understanding employer. In today’s difficult economic times that understanding many not always be as forthcoming as it once was.

More resources

County Boards clearly have more resources than clubs to support an injured player and for that all inter-county players should be grateful.

It can be a very different story at club level where available funds are barely adequate to cover all activities in any given year.

Club players are the main beneficiaries of the GAA’s Player Injury Scheme. The scheme is funded by the GAA and is intended to cover some of the costs incurred when a player gets injured.

That means the scheme has limitations. So at a minimum, players if at all possible, should obtain additional cover.

Unfortunately, the scheme has been abused over the years as some claims were questionable.

That necessitated a rigorous review and some reduction in benefits was introduced. One of those benefit-reductions, which will be familiar to many, was a review of payments for physiotherapy treatment. The changes did not go down too well with clubs, but were necessary to ensure the scheme’s viability.

Despite the GAA’s best efforts the scheme has inadequacies and that places the burden back on clubs whenever a player receives a serious injury. Every sport has its risks and that includes Gaelic games.

Serious injuries are, thankfully, rarely life-threatening, but can sometimes require a lot of rehabilitation for the player to resume normal playing activities.

Long rehabilitation

A long rehabilitation road requires supreme dedication from every athlete and we only need look at Henry Shefflin to appreciate how difficult that recovery road can be. Paudie O’Sullivan is about to set out on a similar difficult rehabilitation journey and I know he will get whatever support he requires from the Cork County Board. I wish him well.

Rather ironically he should look no further than his club colleague Donal Óg Cusack for inspiration. The former Cork goalkeeper received a serious injury last year but has now recovered well.

So while the inter-county player can expect plenty of support when he is injured, it is often not as straight forward for the club player. While clubs around the country are struggling to make ends meet, there is still a great sense of supporting anyone who is seriously injured.

If there was one thing the GAA could do for its clubs right now it would be to increase the funding towards the Player’s Injury Scheme. This increased funding should be specifically targeted at players with long term serious injuries.

Very lonesome

It can be very lonesome working one’s way through a long rehabilitation programme while having to worry about paying the household bills. If you are heading to Nowlan Park on Sunday next it is worth remembering that some of

the ‘gate’ is specifically earmarked for the Player’s Injury Scheme.

Unfortunately some of our clubs will have someone who will be seriously injured this year and they will be glad that such a scheme exists. Your attendance in Nowlan Park on Sunday will show how much you appreciate our players contributions to our clubs.