Pre-sea­son fit­ness con­cerns start­ing to ring true as club in­jury toll mounts

Irish Independent - - Sport - DE­CLAN BOGUE

THREE weeks into the GAA’s re­turn to play roadmap, and the pre­dic­tions of a rise in in­juries are com­ing true. In late June, the for­mer Olympic phys­io­ther­a­pist Marty Loughran sounded a grave note of cau­tion that play­ers were go­ing to suf­fer from soft-tis­sue in­juries with­out a proper pre-sea­son.

“We just don’t have the ca­pac­ity to cope with the in­juries com­ing in

July and Au­gust,” Loughran said at the time.

His own county of Ty­rone has since wit­nessed some high-pro­file ex­am­ples, with Ro­nan O’Neill (Omagh), Pádraig Hampsey (Coal­is­land) and Frank Burns (Pomeroy) suf­fer­ing ham­string in­juries over the last two week­ends.

The is­sue is not just con­fined to Ty­rone. Derry’s Karl McKaigue has suf­fered an Achilles ten­don in­jury, while Ca­van county player Niall Mur­ray has a ham­string com­plaint.

Down cap­tain Caolan Mooney also sat out Rostrevor’s Fri­day night meet­ing with War­ren­point due to a calf strain.

Work­ing with Elite Phys­io­ther­apy and The Per­for­mance Lab, where he over­sees the phys­i­cal de­vel­op­ment of nine club teams as well as in­di­vid­ual ath­letes, Loughran takes no delight in his pre­dic­tion be­ing proven right.

Part of his con­cern was that play­ers were not prac­tised in de­cel­er­a­tion in a multi-di­rec­tional sport dur­ing the pe­riod of lock­down.

“I am sit­ting my­self at 160 per cent ca­pac­ity. I am start­ing work an hour-and-a-half early each day and fin­ished an hour-and-a-half late. Work­ing Satur­days, it’s just nuts,” he states.

“The clinic it­self is sit­ting at just about 120 per cent ca­pac­ity. We are all work­ing over­time, there is not a spare mo­ment that goes wasted. If Frank Burns called up to­day and asked for treat­ment, it is at least a two-and-a-half-week wait­ing list and we had 14 peo­ple sit­ting this morn­ing on a can­cel­la­tion list.”

With the Ty­rone cham­pi­onship due to start in the mid­dle of this month, Loughran can fore­see an­other in­crease in de­mand as train­ing is ramped up, along­side play­ers look­ing to get nig­gles cleared up in or­der to get on the pitch.

Prior to the games re­sum­ing, Loughran had laid out the po­ten­tial prob­lems for play­ers. He cited the Ger­man Bun­desliga that was av­er­ag­ing 0.27 in­juries per game be­fore the coro­n­avirus lock­down, but in­creased to 0.88 in the first round of fix­tures. How­ever, tra­di­tions of the GAA be­ing what they are, the in­stinct of play­ers is to get in peak phys­i­cal con­di­tion in time for cham­pi­onship ac­tion. With­out the ben­e­fit of a pro­fes­sional sport­ing en­vi­ron­ment, this can lead to a flood of in­juries – noth­ing se­vere, but enough to keep play­ers out of ac­tion.

“The good thing is that the sever­ity of the in­juries is quite low, so most of the in­juries we are see­ing are Grade One in­juries – mild strains, fa­tiguein­duced cramp,” says Loughran.

“I would say the ma­jor­ity of those, from just hear­ing about a cou­ple of the in­juries and with­out know­ing the specifics of it, that’s prob­a­bly what they are deal­ing with. We are not talk­ing mas­sive, se­vere, mus­cle tears. I am not see­ing a ham­string

tear. For ev­ery 10 ham­string in­juries I am see­ing, it is only around one that is a tear. So it is very mild, fa­tiguein­duced. I think a lot of man­agers are man­ag­ing it bet­ter. Play­ers are more likely to stick their hand up and know when to come off.’’

The knock-on ef­fect is not just lim­ited to the as­pi­ra­tions of GAA teams. Greater de­mand on physio ser­vices also im­pacts on the ca­pac­ity of health ser­vices.

“The prob­lem is that we have to wear PPE (while see­ing pa­tients). We have to change PPE. We have to clean all the touch­points down in the rooms and so we have to have space be­tween pa­tients,’’ adds Loughran. ‘‘The pa­tients have to wait in the car park and we have to go and bring them in, so our ca­pac­ity is re­duced any­way.

“On the other end of the scale, the health ser­vice are talk­ing about all these peo­ple who have suf­fered strokes and heart at­tacks and can­cers dur­ing lock­down and had avoided hos­pi­tal. But for us, there are peo­ple who have had back pain and knee pain and there is a back­log of those peo­ple now seek­ing help.

“You have those in the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion and then you have the GAA-play­ing pop­u­la­tion, all codes and all age groups, both sexes, play­ing at the one time. That has over­run pri­vate health­care.

“I am re­ally look­ing for­ward to the quar­ter-fi­nals of the cham­pi­onship be­cause things will be­gin to die off then, as teams get knocked out and don’t field for league games.

“If play­ers get a slight strain, they might be more pre­pared to take a cou­ple of weeks out rather than seek a meet­ing with a physio within 24 hours.”

‘This can lead to a flood of in­juries – noth­ing se­vere, but enough to keep play­ers out of ac­tion’

Frank Burns: Ham­string prob­lems

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