I had a particular interest in the findings from the latest report of the GAA’s injury database which was released last week. That database is in its seventh year having been set up by the first GAA Medical, Scientific and Welfare Committee, writes Nickey Brennan.
One of the briefs given to the committee in 2006 was to work in tandem with the UCD medical school to create a database on GAA injuries, including rehabilitation programmes for inter-county players. It was felt that over the years the information gathered from the players would help to enlighten everyone involved in player welfare, including the players themselves.
Since 2006, 45 (football) and 32 (hurling) teams have taken part in the study. Nearly 2, 530 players were monitored. The main findings from the report are not particularly surprising and would probably have been expected.
However, what were anecdotal assumptions in the past are now factual data. The report found that - two out of every 3 players on a team will get injured at least once a season; over one third of players will have more than one injury per season; up to one quarter of injuries will be a recurrence of an old injury; over half of injuries will be during a match whilst over one third are sustained during training; lower limb injuries remain the most prevalent (football - 76.3%, hurling – 69%); 50-60% of injuries occur in the second half of play.
At a time when player concussion is receiving significant attention the report notes that a very small number of injuries 2.3% (football) and 2.2% (hurling) have been to the head with less than 1% (0.8% football, 0.5% hurling) of all injuries being diagnosed as concussion.
The GAA has released new guidelines on concussion and its implications for players. The ’Association is also launching an educational campaign on the subject, which is to be welcomed. The clear advice is that any player suspected of being concussed should be removed immediately from play.
The report from the GAA’s Medical, Scientific and Welfare Committee listed some specific data in relation to a range of common injuries - thigh (football - 32.7%, hurling – 23.4%); hamstring (football - 23%, hurling – 16.7%); knee (football – 11.2%, hurling – 11.8%); pelvis and groin (football – 9.7%, hurling - 10.4%).
In response to these and other injuries the GAA is introducing a standardised 15 minute warm-up before training and games. It is hoped to commence this new approach from the beginning of next year.
Relevant to all
While the report’s finding uses data collected only from inter-county players, the information and recommendations are relevant to all players.
Medical treatment is costly and much of the burden can fall on clubs. In the current economic climate that burden can be overwhelming.
I am certain that better education, specifically aimed at club players, would reduce the incidents of injury which keep players off the playing fields. Of equal importance would be the reduced cost of medical bills which clubs have to bear every year.
Seven years of valuable data is also helping medical professionals get a better understanding of GAA injuries. We are now getting specific advice associated with Gaelic games and not, as happened in the past, on broad comparisons with other sports.
There is still plenty of work ahead for the GAA’s Medical, Scientific and Welfare Committee but their report last week which had significant input from a number of medical professionals is an invaluable resource in keeping players on the pitch active and healthy.