Dual players less likely to pick up injuries – Liam Hennessy
One-year long study of underage players in Tipperary produces a surprising conclusion
Liam Hennessy: “It’s a paradox because we have always thought we have to be very careful with workload, and can’t have it too high.” Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho
Dual players are less likely to pick up injuries compared to those concentrating on one code only, according to Tipperary’s former All-Ireland-winning trainer Liam Hennessy.
Hennessy, the head of Setanta College in Thurles and a close associate of professional golfer Pádraig Harrington, acknowledged that the findings are at odds with public perception that dual players have a greater chance of getting injured.
And Hennessy explained how their work produced a ‘paradoxical’ result.
He said: “They compared the dual player workload with the single code player, either hurling or football.
“Ironically, it’s come up as a kind of paradox. Because the workloads of dual players are greater than either of the codes individually, they may be less likely to incur an injury, simply because they have a greater workload.
“That’s a paradox because we have always thought that we have to be very careful with workload, and can’t have it too high.”
Hennessy, speaking on the latest RTÉ GAA podcast, added: “This is not giving licence to teams, managers and coaches to flog players but the tolerance levels of players seems to be a lot higher than we give them credit for.
“Work carefully to that tolerance level and they’re less likely to incur injuries during the ‘in season’, they are there for more games and there are less injury instances.”
But Hennessy, a member of Michael ‘Babs’ Keating’s Tipperary backroom team in 1991, warned of an increase in soft tissue injuries, particularly hamstrings.
He said: “Across all sports, hamstring injuries are increasing annually. Players are getting more hamstring strains and soft tissue injuries. Even with the vast expansion of county team support systems, set-ups and personnel, injury rates are increasing year on year.”
Hennessy was previously director of fitness with the IRFU for ten years, and he noted: “We found this happening 12 years ago in rugby and put in a very specific programme, having identified the factors relating to these injuries and being very careful in supervision work, and we’ve reduced them to an all-time low.
“You can make meaningful change in how you do things to reduce injuries, but evidence tells us that hamstring injuries is the big one that’s rising annually.”
Hennessy also insisted that the management of player workload can be managed for “a couple of hundred euros”, while acknowledging that more advanced GPS-based systems would cost considerably more.
He added: “There’s no excuse for not knowing the tolerance level of workload for any player. You can gauge it properly and with a proper tapering period in the two weeks before a championship game, any player should be hitting the ground running, and injury risk should be at an all-time low at that stage.”