Sunday 21 January 2018

Treatment for GAA and rugby players better than 'pampered soccer stars' -- sports doctor

Jason O'Brien

THE team doctor at a top Premiership club has said that GAA players and rugby players are better looked after medically than pampered soccer stars.

Gary O'Driscoll -- former team doctor with the Irish international rugby side -- said yesterday that professional footballers were seen as more "disposable" because of the larger quality playing pool.

And he added: "In fact, my experience of professional rugby, international rugby and Premiership football, is that the medical side within rugby is probably a little bit more efficient, a little bit more effective.

"This is because the relative paucity of money involved and fewer players means that you have to take as much care as you possibly can. Every single player is an asset.

"In Premiership football, if you lose a player, off you go and buy another. I think that's one of the reasons that rugby, for example, and probably GAA, do things a lot better than in football."

Mr O'Driscoll, a cousin of Ireland rugby captain Brian, left Irish rugby two years ago to join Arsenal as club doctor.

And speaking at the Annual Sports and Exercise Medicine Conference, held at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin yesterday, he maintained that -- despite the money in professional soccer -- he doesn't believe its sports medicine is more advanced than in rugby.


"This is certainly not a slur on the rest of my Premiership colleagues -- there are some terrific doctors there -- but I think because of what's happened in rugby, because of the significant incidents on a weekly basis, I think our management of serious injuries is better in rugby than it is in football," he said.

"However, the number of players, the assets involved in football does mean that it is catching up."

Mr O'Driscoll, a son of former Ireland rugby fullback Barry, admitted that the transition to professional soccer had been "an eye-opener", and the question over whether his duty of care was to the player or the club was a constant one.

"A lot of our guys come from Africa and remote villages and send money back to keep communities going.

"These are all things a player will throw at you: 'I can't miss this, I can't miss that'. There are win bonuses up to £30,000 (€36,000) per match. They want to play.

"You have to be able to step back and make a rational decision."

He provoked laughter while recounting how star forward Robin van Persie insisted on travelling to Serbia to have horse placenta rubbed on an injury he had picked up while on international duty.

The "radical new treatment" didn't do any harm to what turned out to be a serious injury, the doctor said. But both fans and media believed that Mr O'Driscoll had given the treatment the green light.

"They all believe that you, as the team doctor, have said, 'go off and get some horse rubbed into this and you'll be fine'," he said.

It also resulted in Mr O'Driscoll having sugar lumps thrown at him by fans. And it led to a change of policy at Arsenal, whereby Mr O'Driscoll or the team physio now has to fly out and assess any injury before any other intervention can take place.

The conference, launched by Micheal O Muircheartaigh, continues today.

Irish Independent

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