Injury prevention in GAA by John Casey MISCP MScSportsMed.
It’s the time of the year again when the dust is settling from club AGMs, the sales of boots is one of the few sales booming and GAA players are beginning to refuse the after dinner apple-tart. Minds, if not bodies, are turning towards preparation for preseason training and texts with times and venues are beginning to circulate. The one thing uniting players from all clubs is that everyone is looking forward to a fresh 2011, starting with a clean slate and resolving to build on 2010s experiences.
The importance of a good preseason program has been well documented. It serves to prepare the body for games by promoting weight loss, muscle strengthening, flexibility, speed, stamina and power. It also conditions the mind to be able to concentrate for the complete duration of a game and facilitates players in making correct decisions under fatigue and under pressure. A solid, uninterrupted preseason program is vital to attain optimal performance in peak season. As experienced players will tell you, there are few things more frustrating than an injury in the preseason period, as time out means being less well prepared when championship comes round.
In my view many of the injuries sustained in preseason are avoidable. This can be done in two ways. Firstly the preseason program has to be uniformly progressive and very well planned. It must start at a low level and be ramped up slowly. The body adapts to stresses put on it but if the stress is too much, tissues will become overloaded and break down. The difficulty with GAA preseason programs is that you may get 20 or more players training and all may be at different levels of fitness. So with that in mind, and to keep all players injury free, the program must be either set at a level that accommodates the most challenged player, or be structured so that it allows players to work at their own intensity.
The second way to avoid injury is to ensure that any weaknesses or asymmetries that exist in your body are addressed prior to embarking on a pre-season program. These may exist due to a previous injury which has not been rehabilitated fully or as a result of postural or occupational stresses. Imbalances in terms of strength, flexibility or movement can be easily identified by appropriately qualified health professionals through what’s known as a musculoskeletal screening process. This screening process can range hugely from a quick physical and functional assessment to an in-depth biomechanical analysis depending on the individual and level of sport the individual is competing at. Screening needs to also take into consideration past medical history and injury history, occupational stresses, playing position and stresses from other sports or activities the individual may be involved in. Analysing the screening results allows a program of exercises to be drawn up aimed at addressing the individual issues the player may have, thus allowing full participation in preseason training with minimal risk of injury.
These measures ensure that the days of recurrent injuries such as hamstring tears and ankle sprains are a thing of the past and that players are truly beginning 2011 with a clean slate. As gaelic games are evolving the focus must change from injury management to injury prevention.
If you require any further information feel free to talk to the chartered physiotherapists at Sportsplus Physiotherapy & Rehabilitation Clinic, Quintin’s Way, Nenagh 067-42837.