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Just one in seven GAA players come off when concussion suspected

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Treatment times vary

Treatment times vary

Treatment times vary

Only one in seven GAA inter-county players who had one or more signs of concussion while playing a competitive match were taken off, according to a new study.

Researchers at University College of Cork's School of Medicine found the vast majority who suffer possible concussion only get a brief examination and almost always return to play.

They claimed "a deep-rooted culture that promotes toughness" in the sport could be adding to the problem.

The study, which is published in the Irish Journal of Medical Science, said the results show that practices in Gaelic football, like soccer, with regard to concussion do not comply with international best practice as well as the GAA's own guidelines.

One of the study's co-authors, Mario Pasquale Rotundo, said identification and treatment of concussion were important for lowering the potential risk of injuries.

Researchers analysed a total of 242 potential concussive injuries in 111 National League and All-Ireland championship fixtures played in 2018 and 2019.

They found a player showed signs of concussion in a quarter of all incidents where there had been some form of head contact.

However, only nine out of 61 senior players who had displayed at least one sign of concussion were taken off.

Six out of 10 players who returned to play were bleeding from head wounds.

Awareness of sports-related concussion (SRC) has increased in recent years and led to the GAA introducing guidelines which recommend players with suspected concussion be removed immediately from play.

"The findings suggest there is a problem with the sport that needs to be studied further. They highlight a need to better educate medical personnel on standardised assessment protocols," said Mr Rotundo.

"The importance of accurate identification, assessment and removal of athletes suspected of having suffered a SRC cannot be understated," he added.

Assessed

The report's other co-author, Darek Sokol-Randell, said 5pc of Gaelic footballers took no further part in a match after some head contact, while a similar study for soccer showed the figure was 2pc.

Mr Sokol-Randell said separate research on rugby found 40pc of players with a head injury did not return to play.

The UCC study found just 87pc of players were assessed by medical personnel.

82pc of on-pitch exams lasted less than a minute.

Mr Sokol-Randell said 98pc of assessment on rugby players were off the pitch and took 10 minutes to complete.

"Players displaying multiple signs of concussion were significantly more likely to receive a longer assessment," said Mr Sokol-Randell.

He said there was limited research on whether recommendations on the treatment of concussion were being followed in Gaelic football.

The researchers noted that suffering multiple concussions in a short period of time can result in a potentially fatal condition characterised by rapid swelling of the brain - while a series of concussions over the longer term can lead to neurodegenerative disease.

They claimed there is "a deep-rooted culture that promotes toughness, perseverance and loyalty to one's team" which leads players to downplay their symptoms.

The study recommended the use of video incident analysis by sideline personnel.


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