GAA have no plan to cut blades

Tue, Jan 15, 2013, 00:00

The GAA has no immediate plans to ban or discourage the wearing of boots with blades as opposed to studs in line with one of the more forceful suggestions at Saturday’s GAA Games Development Conference in Croke Park when racehorse trainer Jim Bolger addressed delegates on the theme of “Lessons from the racetrack”.

Bolger made the remarks in the context of the rising numbers of cruciate ligament injuries and cited a project at last year’s Young Scientist Exhibition, which had circulated questionnaires to schools, GAA and soccer clubs and physiotherapy practices.

Responses indicated that a majority of injuries and especially knee injuries had arisen in the case of players wearing blades on the soles of their boots.

There have not however been any academic research-projects linking specific footwear with cruciate damage but the issue of this common injury will be on the agenda of the GAA’s Medical Scientific and Welfare Committee.

According to Ger Ryan, who chairs the committee, the problem of cruciate injuries is a complex one with a number of possible causes as well as remedies.

Injury prevention

“We’ll be looking at any new evidence that comes to light but one of the other topics addressed at the weekend was the pilot programme on injury prevention in ladies’ football. Dr Catherine Blake spoke about how training and warm-ups can help to combat injuries and the challenge for us there will be to take this research and ensure that it’s communicated to the wider community.”

Women footballers have statistically been more prone to cruciate injury than men – the multi All-Ireland winning Cork team racked up 15 of these injuries in the six years between 2005 and 2011. Internationally, warm-up methods devised to counter the problem among women soccer players in California reduced the incidence by 60 per cent.

Dr Niall Moyna is a professor in the DCU School of Health and Human Performance and someone closely involved in Gaelic games, having coached DCU to Sigerson Cups and been part of Pat Gilroy’s Dublin backroom team in the All-Ireland winning season of two years ago; he is currently working with Down.

As a former member of the Medical Scientific and Welfare Committee, he is familiar with the recently epidemic problem and its complexities.

“There’s no really hard evidence pointing to causes,” he says. “There is an argument that sand-based surfaces have had an influence, creating torque on ankles and legs but it would take a large sample size to be definitive and look at all other influences.

Confounding variables

“This sort of research is as they say about confounding variables, such as the length of limbs and flexibility of hamstrings as well as the surface on which the game is being played. There’s also the phenomenal overload on ligaments caused by the volume and intensity of modern training.

“When I was on the committee, research indicated that cruciate injuries were running at some ridiculous figure and their treatment is by far the biggest figure of medical expenditure.”

Even globally there has been no emerging consensus on the causes or strategies to deal with the problem. Ger Ryan’s predecessor as chair of the Medical Scientific and Welfare Committee, Dr Pat Duggan spoke to this newspaper less than 18 months ago and instances the experience in Australia.

“In Australian Rules, which is the most similar game to Gaelic football and where there is a very good medical set-up they have been compiling statistics on injuries for around 15 years whereas we’ve only been doing it for about four.

“The alarming thing in Australian Rules is that although they’re medically advanced and although sports medicine has a significant role to play, their incidence of cruciate injury is increasing.

“It may be that modern players are so phenomenally conditioned from the hips up that when they land on one leg, like in football, the power going through their leg is a lot greater than it was say 10 years ago.”

According to Ger Ryan, the whole question will be looked at closely by the committee.

“Injury prevention is a priority and the work already done by John Murphy will be built on.”

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