Concussion should be top priority for GAA – St Rynagh’s chair

Courtney Fitzmaurice

Chairman of Rynagh GAA Paddy Scales said the welfare of players in concussion must be a top priority for the Association.

St Rynagh’s, along with the Gaelic Players Association (GPA) will propose to Congress that a temporary substitute should be allowed in the case of a head injury or suspected concussion.

Scales said that if in a referee’s opinion he has “a genuine reason to be concerned,” a head injury assessment should be carried out then the player should be taken off the pitch and a temporary substitution allowed.

Scales said a Tullamore College Young Social Innovators (YSI) project on the recovery and dangers of concussion increased awareness in the county on the issue.

St Rynagh’s Niall Wynn is currently suffering from concussion following a number of head injuries. Scales said the 27 year old should be playing the best football of his career, but now it’s uncertain if he’ll ever play hurling again.

As a result of Wynn’s injury, “there’s without a shadow of a doubt a satisfactory level of awareness” regarding concussion. However, Scales said that “if it didn’t come to our club’s doorstep,” he’s not sure they’d be as aware.

Last year, following a minor head injury to a St Rynagh’s player, a temporary substitution was made by the management team. Three minutes later, the temporary sub came off the pitch. The lionsman regarded St Rynagh’s as having made two substitutions because “the lionsman saw no blood.”

Scales fears that in a closer game, losing a substitution like this could have a huge impact on the final score.

“If a player stays playing they’ll increase their chances of significant injury,” he said.

Scales mentioned the pressure on medical staff on the pitch when treating head injuries. “If the medical staff are under duress, that has a huge impact on the game,” he said. “They’re not getting adequate time.”

Scales said it must come down to the referee and not management teams to decide if a substitution is warranted.

“In the National Football League at the moment at county level, there’s a lot of play-acting at the end of matches.” He doesn’t want teams to use head injuries as a delay tactic.

Scales feels “very strongly (the motion) will go ahead,” barring if the GAA medical committee weren’t happy with it.

Scales said people have much more knowledge of concussion now than in the past.
In recent years, there’s been an increase in awareness and guidelines around head injuries in sport. The Football Association have banned under 12s from heading the ball in training.

Patrick Trehy, former chairperson of the Dublin and District Schoolboys League, said the banning of heading footballs was discussed as far back as 2004.

Trehy said children should be shown the correct way to head the ball as “it depends on how you’re taught.” He said the ball has become much lighter over the years, as in the past they were laced shut.

Gareth, a spokesperson for the Physical Education Association said that at primary and secondary school level, there is a lack of communication between coaches, which is dangerous when a child is recovering from a head injury. Children often play more than one sport under different coaches, so it’s important that schools are in close contact with parents.

“Making people aware of how concussions can happen” is very important, he said.

“It’s the second concussion that can cause a lot of damage,” he said.

Gareth advises teachers and coaches to try to treat the injury as best as possible by applying ice, sitting the child down and letting them rest. The child’s parents should be contacted by the school and the parent should monitor the child for the following 24 hours at home.

Courtney Fitzmaurice

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