Aidan O’Shea urges GAA to change rules on concussion

Mayo midfielder played on after suffering head injury in All-Ireland semi-final

There is a part of Aidan O’Shea’s brain that doesn’t want to remember Mayo’s All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Kerry. And another part of it that can’t.

Concussed after a collision with team-mate Cillian O’Connor towards the end of the first half, O’Shea came off and then on again before the end – not that he remembers much of that at all.

Now, about to embark on his seventh season with Mayo, O’Shea believes the GAA needs to look again at its guidelines on how to manage players with suspected concussion: firstly, an independent doctor should make the assessment (rather than the team doctor, as currently happens), and secondly, consideration should be given to a blood-sub type rule to afford players some relief if they themselves fear they may be concussed.

Committed approach

More worrying for O’Shea, perhaps, is that he also believes he is now increasingly prone to concussion, due to repeated incidents over the last number of seasons. Not that any of this will alter his distinctly physical and committed approach to his midfield position.


“It won’t change my approach to the game, absolutely not,” says O’Shea. “I just think maybe from my own point of view, it’s happened so much, that when it does happen, if it does happen, I need to be more team-focused about it, not thinking about myself, and thinking more that someone who comes off the bench would be more ready to give it 100 per cent.

Very difficult

“But it’s very difficult, when you’re in the heat of a game like that, and you think you can make a difference, regardless of what state you’re in.”

O’Shea played on for the second half of the Kerry game, which then went to extra-time: he then came off and back on again, although in hindsight accepts he was nowhere near his best. “I was groggy, and I wasn’t 100 per cent,” he says.

The GAA issued its latest guidelines on concussion in November 2013, stopping short of introducing the blood sub- type rule for players with suspected concussion (for fear it might be abused), and also resisting a rule demanding a concussed player be stood down for a set number of days.

Removed from field

Instead, the GAA’s 12-page concussion guideline document recommends that while any player with a suspected concussion must be immediately removed from the field, and not return to play on the same day, the actual decision rests solely with the team doctor.

Their concussion report revealed less than one per cent of all intercounty injuries are classified as concussion (0.8 per cent in football, and 0.5 per cent in hurling).

“There probably should be an independent doctor on the sideline, to dictate what happens,” says O’Shea.

“A GAA doctor who’s independent of both teams. I’m not a doctor, but I also think the more you’ve been concussed, the more likely it will happen again. I know it’s happened to me quite regularly, at club and county level, for the first time at 15 or 16. But I didn’t even know what it was then.”

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics