Compulsory gumshields to combat rise in facial injuries
ALL underage players, from minor grade down, will have to wear mouthguards from January 1 as part of the GAA's concerted attempt to cut down on facial injuries.
Research has shown that there are now five times the number of facial and jaw injuries in Gaelic football compared to hurling.
This is a radical reversal of the previous trend and the considerable drop in facial injuries in hurling is directly attributed to the introduction of compulsory helmets and face guards in 2010.
The GAA is hoping that the introduction of mandatory gumshields will similarly lessen facial injury rates in football and is phasing them in, starting with their juvenile players next season.
They will be compulsory for all players, including seniors and U-21s, from January 1, 2014.
As part of the incentives to make players adapt quickly to the new 'no gumshield, no game' rule, players will be sent off if they do not wear one. And, significantly, players who are not wearing one will not be covered by the official players' injury insurance scheme.
Research indicates that the use of mouthguards will cut down on teeth injuries by 60pc and lessen injuries around the mouth by 80pc.
"The facial surgeon Cliff Beirne, who served on our last two medical committees, confirmed those statistics, which are staggering," said GAA president Liam O'Neill.
"Sometimes you have to legislate for people's good, whether they like it or not."
The initiative is the first joint player-welfare initiative that the GAA and Gaelic Players' Assocation have taken.
The GPA has been distributing free mouthguards to inter-county players for the past year and will continue to do so, though some players will opt to go for a more expensive customised version.
A company called OPRO has been retained as the official GAA/GPA provider of the 'boil and bite' mouthgaurds, and the proceeds will be invested back into player welfare.
Prices of the OPRO gumshields range from €8 (juveniles) to €33.