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GPA keen to introduce concussion sub to tackle dangers of head injuries in GAA

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GPA chairman Séamus Hickey. Photo: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile

GPA chairman Séamus Hickey. Photo: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

GPA chairman Séamus Hickey. Photo: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile

The day when Seamus Hickey ruptured his cruciate knee ligament regularly pops into his head with the former Limerick hurler convinced that it had something to do with an earlier fall which left him concussed.

The Treaty were playing Clare in the 2013 All-Ireland semi-final when Hickey was carried off in the early moments having felt "groggy" minutes before that and it helps him understand the dangers of concussion better than most.

"Before that my head had hit the turf and I'm constantly wondering whether that was an issue because I was a bit groggy after it and I'm constantly wondering whether that had an influence in me not turning the way I would have turned," he said.

"It was such a freak injury. Why did that never happen to me before and what were the circumstances that were different in that to any of the other playing minutes that I've had? That's only one specific instance of concussion that I had.

"I played underage soccer, went up for a header and I can't remember most of that day. I've experienced it, it's multi-sport so it's very, very important that we understand it as much as we can, education on it is huge."

Legacy

As chairman of the GPA, Hickey is helping to champion for stricter guidelines around head injuries with the possible introduction of a concussion substitute for such instances likely to be proposed by the players' body at next year's GAA Congress.

"If you're talking about legacy injuries after you're finished, there's no greater legacy than a brain injury. It's too easy to see it now and it's actually too easy to recognise because people are far more aware of it," Hickey said.

"You have a duty of care to the player, a duty of care to the sport that you're protecting the image of it and that's why it's so important. I suppose we had high-profile cases during the summer, especially with the football.

"Even in hurling some of the hits that we actually saw, it's very important that when the players leave the field that they can pick up their kids, they can do a day's work, they can study, they can do all these things and that's at the centre of it."

The establishment of a group to provide greater "competitive balance" - something rolled out in the AFL four years ago - within the GAA is also high on the GPA's agenda with the 31-year-old eager to ensure that "every team has a realistic chance".

"There can be a level playing field if we actually think about it and get creative and don't take the game as it is, take the game as how we think it should be and address it that way.

"In terms of competition structures and the competitive element, the competitive balance we are searching for is in terms of every team feeling that they have a realistic chance of going into the season and competing."

Irish Independent