Boost for Donegal as Mark McHugh cleared of concussion

But player still battling quad muscle injury as he bids to be fit for Sunday’s showdown in Croke Park

Mark McHugh has been cleared of concussion and could return for Donegal’s All-Ireland quarter-final against Mayo in Croke Park this Sunday.

The burst ear drum, also sustained in a collision with Monaghan’s Stephen Gollogly during the Ulster final on July 21st, is also not inhibiting his progress.

However, the five centimetre tear of his quad muscle remains a concern. Donegal’s starting 15 will be confirmed this morning with footballer of the year Karl Lacey also expected to start.

“Mark’s definitely got a chance,” said Donegal selector Rory Gallagher. “The dead leg is the most concerning thing at the minute but he passed the seven to 10 days (concussion protocol – see panel).”


In the wake of a number of high-profile concussions in both football and hurling this summer, the GAA confirmed yesterday they will not adopt protocols currently used in professional rugby.

Sustained criticism
The IRB have come in for sustained criticism following the introduction of a "five minute rule" whereby a player can return to the field of play if he correctly answers questions after sustaining a head trauma (an example being Australia's George Smith against the Lions).

“Given all the international research and guidelines regarding sports concussion I don’t see how they can have that five-minute rule in rugby,” said Dr Seán Moffatt, who wrote the GAA’s position statement on concussion.

“That’s not something the GAA advise. As SCAT [sport concussion assessment tool - version three] states, any athlete with suspected concussion should be removed from play and not return to the present game, be medically assessed, monitored for deterioration and not allowed back to play until they complete the return to play protocol and are medically passed fit.”

It’s recommended that each one of the six step recovery process is separated by 24 hours.

“Equally,” Moffatt continued, “during initial period of recovery from concussion players should not drive a vehicle, and may require cognitive rest from work and studies to allow symptoms to settle. This is especially important in our sports where players are amateurs and hold down jobs or are students where they have other demands and limited recovery time compared to professional players . . .”

After last year’s GPA/Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) survey, in which 150 inter-county players responded, it was revealed that 54 per cent have suffered concussion in their careers – 44 percent between two and five times.

Some 58 per cent continued to play with concussion while 42 percent of them didn’t remember the game when it happened nd 27 percent of them returned to play within a day.

"Rugby is trivialising concussion," Dr Barry O'Driscoll, former Irish international who resigned from the IRB medical committee in protest, told The Scotsman earlier this year.

“The same player who 18 months ago was given a minimum of seven days recovery time is now given five minutes. There is no test that you can do in five minutes that will show that a player is not concussed.”

Clare hurler John Conlon recently sustained a head trauma five minutes into the Munster semi-final against Cork. It became apparent he was concussed, approximately 15 minutes later, when he asked which way he was playing.

"Concussion can be a difficult injury to diagnose during a match," continued Moffatt, the Mayo footballers team doctor. "Symptoms and signs can be vague and players may not appreciate balance co-ordination or other subtle symptoms of concussion.

Bigger games
"In the bigger games, like an All-Ireland final, it is difficult to hear and assess on the field of play so it's a big call to make and having a good knowledge of the symptoms of concussion is essential."

According to the GAA’s injury data base only 0.78 percent of 1,679 injuries recorded over the last eight years were due to concussion.

“It is fair enough to say that the level of fitness, conditioning and the pace of the game has increased. Put all those ingredients in together and obviously collisions are going to increase.

“Interestingly concussion can result from transmitted forces and does not always require a direct blow to the head, a shoulder charge and heavy fall to the ground may cause a concussion . . .” added Moffatt.

GAA director of player welfare Fergal McGill said “If you are asking if we have a massive problem with concussion the answer is absolutely no. If you are asking if I’m worried that it is something that could be on the increase the answer is yes.”

The joint GPA/ABI education campaign is ongoing with a particular focus on the club scene as medical practitioners may not always be present.

Chris Nowinski, a former American footballer and wrestler turned documentary maker on concussion, said of Brian O’Driscoll’s return to play against France earlier this year: “If it happened in the States there would be an outcry. It’s like you giving a drunk the keys to his car because he tells you he’s fine.”

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent