Players prone to suffer from arthritis


News round-up: A new survey has indicated Gaelic games players are more than six times as likely as the general population to suffer from arthritis-related pains and stiffness.

The survey was undertaken by consultant rheumatologist Dr Doug Veale and found 65 per cent of players were suffering regular pain and stiffness compared to rates of around 10 per cent among the general population. More than half (52 per cent) said the pain made their lives uncomfortable.

The study was conducted among 260 players, including All-Ireland finalists in hurling and football, beaten semi-finalists in football and hurling, and provincial title holders in football and hurling. Although there were no comparative figures released for other field sports, according to Veale the problem isn't unique to Gaelic games.

"UK researchers have started to uncover high levels of arthritis due to wear-and-tear in professional footballers and that got me to thinking about GAA - a much more physical sport which, although amateur, has intense training levels. Our survey certainly indicates there is an arthritis issue to be addressed at the top levels in the GAA, and that players and doctors are already concerned - practically every one of the 262 players who participated wanted more information on the condition.

"No one would suggest sportsmen should cease playing football and hurling, but I believe everyone involved in the sport needs to look at strategies and educational initiatives which can reduce arthritis risk and manage the condition in those who have it. This should involve managers, players, doctors, trainers and physiotherapists to name just a few," he said.

This echoes concerns expressed earlier this year by Irish sports scientists involved with the GAA. Niall Moyna, exercise physiology expert at Dublin City University, has criticised the demands on players.

"Constant heavy training is like hitting the knee with a sledge hammer night after night," he told The Irish Times. "As a result we are seeing chronic injuries on a scale unheard of in the 1980s."

Meanwhile Ireland's International Rules captain Pádraic Joyce is expected to resume training with the national squad on Friday at Croke Park when manager Peter McGrath will take a last look at the players before announcing his finalised panel on Saturday. Joyce was able to play a part in his club Killererin's regaining of the Galway championship after a victory over Salthill-Knocknacarra.

Australia have also been struck by injuries. Of the All-Australian selection (the AFL equivalent of the All Stars and which is used as the basis of the Australian panel), Warren Tredrea, captain of Premiership winners Port Adelaide, is getting married and his team-mate Chad Cornes will be in attendance. Brownlow medallist (AFL player of the year) Chris Judd is out with a wrist injury. He was one of their best players last year.

Jason Akermanis, familiar from his clashes with Peter Canavan which earned him a suspension, is another who won't be travelling, as the birth of his first child is imminent. But he hasn't played for four years. Matthew Scarlett will be serving a suspension from last year's series. James Hird is likely to captain the side, as he did in 2000.

The TG4 reality television football series Underdogs returns to the screens on Sunday week. Last year a group trained by former players Brian Mullins (Dublin), Jarlath Burns (Armagh) and Mickey Ned O'Sullivan, were prepared for a match against Dublin, which was only narrowly won by the county side. A number of the Underdogs went on to play for their counties.

This year RTÉ commentator Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh, who trained Dublin-based Kerry players during Mick O'Dwyer's management, has replaced Mullins. The team will play this year against All-Ireland champions Kerry.

Finally, Seamus McEnaney was last night ratified as the new manager of the Monaghan senior football team in succession to Colm Coyle. He is the younger brother of former county midfielder Frank and current referee Pat McEnaney.