Hurlers warned against adapting helmets after player injured

Piercing of club player’s hand with metal bar from opponent’s helmet triggers safety alert

The GAA made  helmet wearing in hurling mandatory in 2010, leading to a significant reduction in injuries treated by hospital emergency departments. Photograph: Billy Stickland/©INPHO

The GAA made helmet wearing in hurling mandatory in 2010, leading to a significant reduction in injuries treated by hospital emergency departments. Photograph: Billy Stickland/©INPHO

 

Hurlers have been warned against modifying their helmets after a club player had his hand pierced by a metal bar from an opponent’s helmet.

The 24-year-old required surgery after turning up at the Midland Regional Hospital, Tullamore, with a piece of metal penetrating his hand.

He had been attempting to catch the sliotar with his left hand when it struck the helmet of an opposing player. This helmet had been modified to leave a sharp piece of metal in place of a single bar.

The metal went through the tip of the man’s ring finger and down into his little finger. However, he suffered no nerve damage and was brought to surgery, where the faceguard was safely removed.

The man was discharged after 24 hours and returned to sport four weeks later.

The incident is highlighted in a case study in the Irish Medical Journal, in which the authors call for heightened awareness around the dangers of modifying hurling helmets.

Dr Tony Farrell, Dr Ciaran McDonald and Dr Eoin Sheehan say that while the GAA and the National Safety Authority of Ireland (NSAI) forbid altering helmets, 31 per cent of hurling helmets have been modified in some way.

Dangers

The authors believe the modifications are not made with the intention of causing injury but nonetheless they say they can result in sharp metal bars protruding from players’ helmets.

This shows the need for more education on the dangers of altered helmets, according to the study.

“Ultimately, the rules of helmet modification will need to be enforced by coaches and referees at a local level. Just as footwear studs are checked prior to rugby or soccer and gloves inspected in combat sports, the inspection of safety equipment should become a mandatory pre-match checklist for any referee or match officials.

‘Rare injury’

“Although penetrating injuries from a helmet in hurling are a rare injury they occur as a direct result of helmet modification. We feel by highlighting the dangers of this practice we can raise awareness among players and officials and to effect a change in this modification practice.”

The GAA made the wearing of helmets in hurling mandatory in 2010, leading to a significant reduction in injuries treated by hospital emergency departments.

Wearing a helmet fitted with a faceguard reduces the injury risk 10-fold, one study found.