'A lot of players taking painkillers' - Physio and ex-Dubs hurler reports injury increases in 2020

Joey Boland says he has seen a lot of players present with hamstring and ankle injuries.

PHYSIO AND FORMER Dublin hurler Joey Boland says he noticed an increase in the number of injuries at inter-county level last year, due to the condensed nature of the GAA season.

aig-dub-club-health-club-event Former Dublin hurler Joey Boland. Source: Harry Murphy/SPORTSFILE

The Covid-19 pandemic caused huge disruption to the hurling and football campaigns in 2020, forcing a shutdown that resulted in a major fixture revamp.

Club competitions were played off first when the season restarted and was followed by inter-county games between October and December.

Boland, whose company Sports Physio Ireland is based in Dublin, says that the tight timeframe of last season caused a spike in injury cases.

“Yeah, especially the inter-county season last year, there were a lot of players taking painkillers and playing through because it was such a short period,” he says as the GAA faces into another season of interruptions in 2021.

“You really couldn’t afford to be sitting out with a sore hip or a sore groin or anything like that, especially in the mini pre-seasons.

“With the club as well, there was just no time to periodise your training at all or look after yourself so there was a big increase in injuries. But they mightn’t have been reported.”

Inter-county GAA is permitted to proceed when restrictions are lessened to Level 4 with a four-week pre-season expected before games take place. Boland accepts that the pandemic will dictate the GAA’s fixture planning, but feels that a month of preparation is “too short.”

He believes that an eight-week period is more preferable to give players a proper chance to match-fit and avoid injuries.

Remarking on the kind of injuries that he saw most frequently in players last year, Boland added:

“Hamstrings would definitely be number one because that’s all to do with exposure to that tough sprinting when if you’re a corner back and the corner forward has made four or five runs and then maybe a fresh man comes onto you and you have to go again and again and again.

“You can only replicate that in real match situations. So, hamstring and then the second one would be ankles. If you’re used to just jogging in straight lines and you’re just training by yourself, and then suddenly there’s so much more to be thinking about when you’re in an actual match.

“You need your ankles to have had that exposure to that unconscious balance of landing, twisting and turning.”

The sin-bin rule will be introduced in hurling on a trial basis, after a motion proposing new penalties for aggressive and cynical fouls was passed at Congress.

There has been some resistance towards implementing this rule in the past, but Boland welcomes its arrival in the small ball game.

“Only time will tell but whatever they picked, there would always be an argument for another option. I’d be happy enough and am looking forward to seeing how it goes.

“In order to better the game, you have to discourage defenders from hauling players down. So I think it’s a good thing.”

mattie-kenny-dejected-after-the-game Dublin manager Mattie Kenny. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Boland was part of the Dublin team that captured the 2013 Leinster SHC. Under the guidance of then-manager Anthony Daly, much was expected of the Dubs going forward.

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However they failed to capitalise on that potential with periods of progression and regression following in the interim. 

Their 2020 championship consisted of a over Laois before bowing out of the campaign after losing the Leinster semi-final to Kilkenny and a qualifier defeat to Cork.

Boland suggests that Dublin need to unearth more match-winning forwards in order to evolve.

“You need to get a situation where if you’re clearing three or four balls up the pitch, that you do have the forwards, without anybody even knowing it, they’ve got 1-3 or 1-4 and you’re still in the game and then you’re taking the pressure off the defence.

“The best form of defence as far as I can always see was when a forward does something out of the ordinary and catches a ball over two of their defenders and sticks it over and it just gives all our defence a lift so I think that we need possibly one or two more of them.” 

Joey Boland was speaking at the launch the new virtual AIG Health Plus portal which offers free membership at for all Dublin GAA club players and members to a unique physiotherapy-led fitness and health online resource that includes virtual gym membership.

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