Doctor insists new sideline rules put players in danger
KILDARE'S team doctor will continue to defiantly ignore the GAA's strict new sideline rules, despite the fact that it looks set to attract heavy fines on their county board.
Opposition to the new rules governing the reduced numbers allowed along the sideline during matches gathered further momentum yesterday when Dublin hurling boss Anthony Daly waded into the debate and called the restrictions "crazy".
A bid by the GAA to cut down on sideline incidents has seen them reduce the numbers of back-room members allowed pitch-side from 12 to five this season, restricting them to team manager, a selector, one medic and two water/hurley carriers.
Most teams have opted to have their physiotherapists closest to hand but the Lilywhites' long-running team medic, Dr Danny Mulvihill, openly flouted the rule in their league opener against Donegal last Saturday by joining their physio Noel Mallon on the sideline.
Mulvihill is one of the most high-profile doctors within the GAA, a former chairman of their Medical/Scientific/ Welfare Committee who has closely advised the Association on injury and safety issues in the past. But he was unapologetic yesterday and said he will continue to defy the new rules.
"This rule simply doesn't allow us to do our duty," Mulvihill said, arguing that it goes against team doctors' "professional and ethical responsibility to look after players".
"This is not just about acute situations (where players have a bad injury) which thankfully are few and far between," he said. "What people don't understand is that, as a team doctor, we work very closely with our physios during training sessions and matches.
"We are constantly monitoring and discussing players, especially those who are coming back from injury or may have picked one up during the game.
"For us to do our job to the best of our ability, and in the best interests of the players, it is vital we are together and in constant communication."
Dr Mulvihill said he has already been contacted by six or seven prominent inter-county doctors who are also opposed to the new regulations.
"One Ulster doctor told me that during the McKenna Cup he was very worried when one of his players looked to have a serious respiratory problem and he was delayed in getting to him because he was up in the stand.
"Thankfully it was not as serious as he first feared and acute incidents are actually a rarity, but there could still be situations where a delay in getting to a player could have serious repercussions.
"There is a huge variety of designated areas and stands around the country and, in some stands, like Croke Park, you could have 20 steps to get down to the sideline."
Dublin hurling manager Anthony Daly believes that the nature of hurling means it is even more important to have team medics close to hand.
"I know it can be difficult if there are too many people on the line, you do see it a bit at club level," Daly accepted. "But you can easily have two injuries occurring at the same time in a game. The problem is especially serious in hurling, where there are more nicks and belts.
"God forbid if something did happen to somebody and we didn't have somebody on the line to deal with it. I am certainly not equipped or qualified to deal with a lad, say, swallowing his tongue or something like that."
Dublin footballer Paul Mannion was the first inter-county player to suffer a serious injury (concussion) in their NFL clash with Cork last Saturday, which was delayed by six minutes as he was stretchered off.
Their physio Ciaran O'Reilly was the first one to Mannion's aid and the Dubs' doctor David Hickey, who had been in the stand but immediately saw how serious it was, was not far behind.
Dr Mulvihill said that no officials had tried to block him from staying pitch-side.
"We had no problems. No one has said a word to me but I've read the regulations closely and if the GAA chooses to apply them strictly, there is a possibility of a €700 fine," he said.
"If that happens it happens but it would be a dereliction of my duty to our players if I am not on the sideline working alongside our physio.
"The first I heard of these rules was in the press. I subsequently made a submission, by email, to Croke Park, but have heard nothing back," he revealed.
"They have had an Ard Comhairle meeting since (in December), which adopted these rules, which indicates that they saw no reason to change them.
"The feedback that I have had so far is that many team doctors are of the same mind, that this is seriously ill-advised and (the GAA's decision) needs to be reviewed."