Saturday 18 January 2020

Boy's brush with death after sliotar hit chest sparks GAA safety vow

Naomh Barrog club chairman Liam Byrne with a defibrillator. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Naomh Barrog club chairman Liam Byrne with a defibrillator. Photo: Gerry Mooney

GAA clubs have said they would support a safety overhaul after a sliotar caused a 13-year-old boy's heart to stop.

The young player collapsed after the sliotar hit him in the chest.

His mother, who is a nurse and was watching, began CPR almost immediately.

A defibrillator was then applied and the boy's heart began beating again.

Dr Terence Prendiville, a consultant paediatric cardiologist at Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin, told RTE Radio 1 that the boy had suffered an extremely rare incident when the ball hit his chest at a particular period of the "heart cycle".


Dr Prendiville, the co-author of a report highlighting the incident in the Irish Medical Journal, said what the case had shown was the need for more people to be trained in CPR and more defibrillators.

"It's a rare phenomenon," he added, but it was best to "plan and mitigate in every scenario".

Dr Prendiville said defibrillators should be checked every year, and added that the Irish Heart Foundation would provide CPR training.

Liam Byrne, chair of Naomh Barrog GAA club in Kilbarrack, north Dublin, said 38 people had recently signed up for first aid training, but only 25 could take part as the course was over-subscribed.

The others will be trained at a later date, and the club is fundraising to keep the classes going.

Boy was hit with a sliotar
Boy was hit with a sliotar

"It is expensive and on-going fundraising is needed. We have 44 teams - it's huge," Mr Byrne said.

He added that the GAA should look into the issue further after the incident highlighted in the Irish Medical Journal.

"There's rules and restrictions where players can't go out on to the field without a helmet, even to train," Mr Byrne said.

"Breastplates would be an answer, particularly for juveniles - they're still growing."

A GAA spokesman said: "As far back as 2013, GAA clubs purchased over 1,500 defibs."

He added that the best way to improve safety was through "education and equipment" and, although the sliotar was soft for child hurlers up 12, after that it was hard as it is a "vital component of the game".

This was "hugely unlikely to change" when an "incident is as rare" as the one reported, he added.

"If it might put parents' minds at rest, they could try chest padding," the spokesman said.


Unless such incidents "became more pronounced", the GAA's medical and science committee would not become involved.

Monaghan Harps GAA club, in Monaghan town, had its only defibrillator vandalised 10 days ago, and is still waiting to hear from a technician if it is working again.

Chair Jimmy Croarkin told the Herald that the club was now raising funds to buy CCTV to identify anyone who tries to vandalise the life-saving equipment in future.

"They took the defibrillator off the wall, it was lying in the middle of the car park," Mr Croarkin said.

He added that, although the club has only 40 hurlers, he would support any extra safety measures to protect children.

"I'd absolutely be for chest shields," he said.

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