GAA to launch cruciate pilot project


GAA:THE GAA hopes to launch a pilot project next year with a view to addressing the incidence of cruciate injuries. This season has seen an unprecedented number of high-profile players doing damage to their knee ligament and although it is not clear that the global occurrence of the injury within Gaelic games is rising, the matter is causing concern within the association.

Croke Park’s Medical, Scientific and Welfare Committee has decided to establish a sub-committee under the chair of Dublin’s Dr Pat Duggan and charged it with bringing forward the pilot scheme, which will need to secure approval and funding from the association.

Assuming it is green-lighted, the plan is to start the project at the beginning of next year.

“This is in its infancy at the moment,” according to Dr Duggan, “but what we hope to be able to do is take 30 teams, using 15 as control and the other 15 to examine the impact of a particular warm-up routine, which is to be adapted from women’s and men’s soccer.”

Women suffer far more than men from cruciate injuries.

In RTÉ’s The Committee Room on Wednesday evening journalist Kieran Shannon pointed out that the phenomenally-successful Cork women’s football teams of recent years have seen 15 of these injuries since 2005.

A warm-up method devised to counter the problem among women soccer players in California reduced the incidence by 60 per cent. This and other preventative measures trialled in Scandinavia are to be adapted for implementation by the pilot project.

“Our plan is to involve fairly elite club teams, as the pre-requisite is that they train three times a week so they have to be at a certain level. It will be Dublin-biased – although not exclusively so – in that there is a fair standardisation among clubs in the county and the likelihood is that UCD will be involved in the administration.”

There have been a number of theories advanced as to why the numbers appear to be increasing: the type of boot used, pitch surfaces and the physical development of modern players have all been advanced.

According to Duggan solid data establishing any of these as possible causes is mixed.

“I was at a recent meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine and when this issue arose, a lot of the older more experienced voices said: ‘Be humble. Accept that we don’t fully understand this.’ It’s important to say that there hasn’t so far been any speculation arising from all of the research that boots or pitch surfaces are having an appreciable effect so I’m not sure that there’s massive evidence supporting that. Although anecdotally here in Dublin there are those who believe that sand-based pitches are a factor.

“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.”

The sub-committee examining the pilot project includes some of the best-known names in GAA sports science and medicine: Dr Pat O’Neill, the All-Ireland-winning Dublin player and manager and sports injury consultant, Prof Niall Moyna in DCU’s School of Health and Human Performance, and John Murphy, Dublin physiotherapist and a specialist in knee, lower back and shoulder problems.