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'You’re always focused on the result and that's dangerous when there are players at stake'

Concussion was one of the big issues discussed at the recent GAA Coaching Conference.

Liam Sheedy has urged coaches to air on the side of caution.
Liam Sheedy has urged coaches to air on the side of caution.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

FORMER TIPPERARY ALL-IRELAND winning boss Liam Sheedy admits a manager’s judgment on player welfare can become skewed in the heat of the battle.

Speaking at the recent GAA Coaching Conference, the 46-year-old conceded a management team are so focused on the result of a game they can often disregard the advice of the medical staff – particularly when it comes to head injuries and concussion.

“From a manager’s point of view, you’re always focused on the result and the outcome and that’s always a dangerous place to be when there are players at stake,” Sheedy said at Croke Park.

“So as a manager you need to put the player first and your decision making his critical in that regard.”

Sheedy was part of a Medical, Scientific and Welfare committee panel which discussed the association’s guidelines for concussion and urged the delegates in attendance, many of whom were coaches from all corners of the island, to be extremely cautious and vigilant when it comes to player welfare.

Kevin Moran, a consultant surgeon and the Donegal team doctor, stressed players must never return to play after sustaining a knock to the head.

The basic principle of ‘if in doubt, sit them out’ was emphasised strongly with Moran insisting a player cannot return to play without receiving full clearance from a doctor.

While the onus is on the medical team to make a split-second decision, Laois footballer Ross Munnelly admitted some responsibility falls at the feet of the player to put their hand up and admit they’re not right.

“Ultimately you have to trust the team management and the set-up that’s there,” he continued.

“There are times you take a head knock and the team doctor comes in and you need two or three minutes to see where you are and 99% of times you will be fine but it’s wise to trust the doctor and not leave all the responsibility to the doctor.

Kevin Moran Dr Kevin Moran. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“You as a player yourself must feel it yourself. If things aren’t quite right, you have to put your hand up and take control.”

In his annual report published yesterday, GAA Director General Paraic Duffy commended the work of the committee but confirmed the proposed introduction of a temporary substitute was voted against.

“Our existing management guidelines are clear in their insistence that a player suspected of concussion should be removed from play and should not resume playing that day,” he wrote.

“A concussion substitute and sidelined assessment would contradict these guidelines, which are based on international best practice.”

Meanwhile, a standardised 15-minute warm-up for GAA teams of all ages and levels has been introduced in an attempt to reduce the number of injuries sustained by players.

The ‘GAA 15′ has been developed by the Medical, Scientific and Welfare committee and is designed to be undertaken as a warm-up before training and games.

The warm-up was tested in four college teams, two hurling and two football, and was practiced two times a week – at the start of training and incorporated into the pre-game warm-up.

“This GAA tailored programme takes 15 minutes to complete and you don’t need any equipment,” Dr Edwenia O’Malley, chartered physiotherapist and a member of the committee, said.

“It’s evidence based from other sports and we wanted to make sure as many experts came in to design the programme itself. It’s designed to activate the right muscles to complete the movements in a game.

“It’s important at grassroots level as we want this to become every day practice for younger players and for them to use it as they progress through the ranks.”

The ‘GAA 15′ has three sections comprising of six types of activity which improve neuromuscular control to reduce injury risk factors.

The initiative was launched at the recent Coaching Conference, where it was revealed one in four injuries sustained at inter-county level are recurring ones and just 28% in football are contact injuries with that figure a bit higher at 36% in hurling.

Source: GAALearning/YouTube

Statistics from the GAA injury database suggest players are forcing their way through training sessions and games despite carrying soft tissue or non-contact injuries.

Kildare manager Cian O’Neill, who was part of the player welfare panel at the conference, revealed as many as eight of his current panel have played through injury as the competition for places remains as high as ever.

But Dr O’Malley has warned of the long-term consequences of ignoring the medical staff and continuing to play through the pain barrier.

“The short-term consequences is that they are back on the sideline, but there could be long-term consequences too that may affect their health later in life,” she continued.

“It is important the player is given full opportunity to rehab properly so to give them the best chance to realise their potential when they do return.”

Munnelly played a role in designing the programme and admitted he himself disregarded medical advice last year when he was troubled by a back problem.

Source: GAALearning/YouTube

“It can be a very tough place to be where you are trying to perform at a certain level, but know your body isn’t at that level,” he explained.

“It is about having a relationship with the manager and trusting the set-up that’s there. It is okay to go and say, ‘I don’t feel I am at the level that you need me to be and the best thing for me is to take a bit of a break.’”

A number of resources for coaches, players and parents are now available on the GAA website here while more information on the ‘GAA 15′ and injury prevention can be found on the online coaching portal

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Ryan Bailey

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