The question of safety in sports, especially concussion related, has been the subject of great debate not only in the media but also among sports organisations following the recent settlement amounting to $765m in the United States where some 4,500 former players had sued the NFL alleging that the organisation had concealed the risks of long term brain damage.
In addition to this there have been a number of concerns expressed following concussion related injuries in other sports including Soccer, Rugby and Boxing. So it is timely that the GAA’s Medical, Scientific and Welfare Committee released information on a number of on-going initiatives – on these and related subjects – being taken by the Association at a Croke Park briefing.
National Injury Database:
The Committee released the main findings from the latest report of the GAA’s Injury Database. The database, now in its seventh year monitors injury data collected from the senior Inter-County playing population. Since 2006, 45 (Football) and 32 (Hurling) teams have taken part with a total of 2,525 players being monitored. The main findings are:
• 2 out of every 3 players on a team will get injured at least once in a season
• Over 1/3 of players will have more than one injury per season
• Up to 1/4 of injuries will be a recurrence of an old injury
• Over half of injuries will be during a match whilst over 1/3 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
Only a very small number of injuries 2.3% (Football) and 2.2% (Hurling) have been injuries to the head with less than 1%, (0.8% Football, 0.5%, Hurling) of all injuries being diagnosed as concussion.
Mr. John C. Murphy (Director, GAA National Injury Database) and Dr. Catherine Blake (Research Co-ordinator) presented the injury data which has been collected under their guidance and acknowledged the work which Ms. Edwenia O’Malley (UCD School of Public Health, Physiotherapy, Population Science) has completed in this regard. On the topic of concussion, Mr. Murphy said that whilst less than 1% of all injuries have been classified as a concussion, the GAA has taken progressive steps by releasing updated guidelines and beginning the process of implementing an educational campaign.
The following injuries were highlighted as being the most common in Gaelic games:
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%)
Dr. Catherine Blake pointed out that a proactive approach had been taken to addressing lower limb injuries with the development of the GAA 15 version 1, a standardised 15 minute warm-up which can be taken before training and games. She said it was hoped that the GAA 15 would be launched next January and embedded into the GAA’s Coach Education Programmes from October 2014.
The Committee in conjunction with Ms. Ruth Whelan (Physiotherapy Manager, UPMC Beacon Hospital) has updated its guidelines on concussion management based on the consensus statement from the International Conference on Concussion in Sport which was released in March 2013. It was pointed out that any player suspected of having received a concussion should be removed immediately from play. The importance of managers and coaches taking advice from medical personnel in this regard was also highlighted.
Ms. Whelan pointed out that players should never return to play on the same day as having received a suspected concussion and medical clearance should be obtained before a player returns to play. The guidelines were presented at the annual GAA Medical Conference on Saturday last and the Medical, Scientific and Welfare Committee will be concentrating on implementing an educational plan in the coming months which will emphasise the key messages of its guidelines to a large number of stakeholders. Reference was made to various educational tools which are currently available on the GAA website and learning portal.
Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael Liam Ó Néill acknowledged the excellent work of the Medical, Scientific and Welfare Committee and expressed a hope that this would continue into the future as part of ongoing efforts to safeguard the welfare of our players.
Ger Ryan, Committee Chairman, thanked Ruth Whelan for her important work on the concussion statement and acknowledged the on-going value of the work being carried out by John C. Murphy and Dr. Catherine Blake on the GAA National Injury Database. He said the Committee has placed a strong emphasis on communicating medical and player welfare initiatives to as wide an audience as possible and urged players, coaches, medical personnel and other interested stakeholders to visit the ‘Player’ section of the Association’s e-Learning portal. He said a large number of text, image, video and audio based resources are available to registered users. He also highlighted the availability of educational tools in the context of anti-doping, cardiac screening, concussion management, injury prevention and training & lifestyle.
Dessie Farrell, CEO of the Gaelic Players Association and current member of the Medical, Scientific and Welfare Committee acknowledged that the GPA’s involvement with the Committee was beneficial for both Inter-County and Club players. He welcomed the developments with regard to concussion management, the injury database and the new learning portal and said that the GAA and GPA were eager to continue to address other player welfare issues in a proactive manner.