Saturday 1 October 2016

One in four young GAA players insist on playing despite suffering from concussion, new study finds

David Kearns

Published 07/03/2016 | 08:48

Mayo’s Lee Keegan is assisted off the pitch by Dr Sean Moffatt in a suspected case of concussion Credit: Diarmuid Greene (SPORTSFILE)
Mayo’s Lee Keegan is assisted off the pitch by Dr Sean Moffatt in a suspected case of concussion Credit: Diarmuid Greene (SPORTSFILE)

A quarter of young GAA players admit to playing on even though they knew they were concussed, new research reveals.

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A study by NUI Galway found that 40pc of boys and young men playing hurling and football assumed that continuing to play would relieve the symptoms.

The study, published in the International Journal of Adolescent Mental Health, spoke with young players aged between 13 and 25 in clubs around the country.

Read More: 'Concussion would not stop me playing' - Camogie star Ashling Thompson

Among its findings were that males were far more likely to remain on the pitch despite being knocked out after a blow to the head than female players.

Less than 17pc of young women admitted to doing the same.

Of those interviewed by the research team, almost all were aware of headaches and dizziness being signs of concussion.

However, only slightly more than half knew about other symptoms such as sluggish and feeling hazy.

“[These] results indicated participants lack a complete understanding of concussion, as common misconceptions about it prevailed,” concludes the study.

Read More: Brian O'Driscoll believes it's 'crazy' to force schoolchildren to play rugby

According to the GAA’s ‘Return To Play’ guidelines, any player who is suspected of concussion should be removed immediately from play.

Unless approved by a medic, they are not allowed to return to the field under any circumstance.

If a player is found to have concussion, there must be a rest period of two weeks, it adds.

The study by NUI Galway comes just days after calls to ban tackling in underage rugby across Ireland and the UK.

More than 70 doctors and academics in the UK and US have raised fears that “high-impact collision” sports are having severe consequences for children.

Read More: Tony Ward: Please don't kill the game I love

Trinity College psychology professor Dr Sabina Brennan, who is director of the university’s dementia research, said there was a growing body of scientific evidence showing that repeated head injuries and concussions sustained by children while playing contact sports can “lead to life-long impairment of brain function and dementia in later life”.

"This isn't cotton wool parenting. We need to err on the side of caution," she told the Irish Independent.

"It's more than an accident waiting to happen."

Responding to the appeal, the IRFU has stated that the long-term health and personal benefits of playing rugby "far outweigh the risks".

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