Concussion 'stand down' not needed – GAA
The GAA's medical, scientific and welfare committee (MSW) has updated its guidelines on concussion but has stopped short of introducing a mandatory 'stand down' period or a specific 'concussion sub' rule similar to that of a blood sub.
Ger Ryan, the committee's chairman, admitted that both ideas were looked at, but he and his colleagues decided that they were satisfied with the new guidelines, which expand on a 2007 paper brought out by a previous committee.
The guidelines stress that any player suspected of having concussion should be removed from the field of play immediately and should not return. They add that a team doctor must advise a manager of any suspicion of concussion, and that the player cannot then continue.
They recommend adequate physical and cognitive rest for a period of 24 hours before gradual 'return to play' protocol is adhered to. Ryan admitted a mandatory 'stand down' period was given consideration.
"We did give consideration to (a mandatory 'stand down' period) but having had a look at the level of concussion (head injuries amount to less than 1pc of all GAA injuries), and taken advice from experts, we believe the guidelines are sufficient and they are a very good template for managing concussion," Ryan said.
"We will review how effective they are and if they are doing the job we expect them to do."
GPA chief executive Dessie Farrell said a 'concussion sub' rule was "definitely something to look at" in the future – it had been suggested by the previous MSW chairman Dr Pat Duggan.
"It's not as evident as a blood sub, and the argument will be, well, could it be used to just replace a player?" said Farrell.
"What we need to do first of all is develop the culture within the organisation that everyone understands what concussion is about and how serious it is.
"Other sports have evolved their policies as they've become more familiar with the subject matter. It's definitely something to be looked at in the future."
A set of guidelines have been put together by the Beacon Hospital setting out the GAA's policy towards concussion. Farrell said concussion among GAA players was likely to grow as they become faster and better conditioned physically.
However, Ryan said the requirement for independent doctors at games wasn't necessary.
"All of the team doctors are experienced people and well able to do the diagnosis. They are the best people to liaise with their team managers," he said.
Farrell reiterated how services to deal with excessive gambling were still the most in demand on the GPA's mental health programme.
"Gambling has the highest incidence of players presented to our counsellors," he said. "Depression would be next – it is a big issue. I think the problem is the type of lifestyle our players lead, and all that goes on with the game these days.
"Maybe socially they're not as active as other civilians in society. So they have time on their hands, particularly late at night."