GAA clubs should log concussion incidents says Ireland team doctor Kevin Moran

Ireland's team doctor Kevin Moran believes GAA clubs should start logging all episodes of concussion
Cahair O'Kane in Perth

IRELAND and Donegal team doctor Kevin Moran says that every GAA club should have a welfare officer keeping a concussion log on players in a bid to battle a growing problem.

Moran is a member of the GAA’s Medical, Scientific and Welfare Committee and says one of the primary dangers is among young players who are playing more than one sport.

“I think every club should have a welfare officer and on their agenda concussion should be a priority, keeping a concussion log on any player in the club, particularly under-age because now we have players playing Gaelic today, rugby tomorrow and soccer the next day.

“That’s one of the big problems. You could have a fella who had a couple of concussions and nobody knew about them because they happened in other sports.”

The committee has been working on dealing with the issue of concussion for a number of years, and Moran (above) himself has represented the GAA at a number of forums including the Berlin Consensus Conference.

He was one of the organisers of the first National Concussion Symposium in Croke Park and had studied the set-up at the University of Pittsburgh and the Steelers NFL team in the same city.

Dr Moran believes that in order to address the issue long-term, the main thrust of the GAA’s work in the area must be based around education.

“Only about five per cent of our games have a doctor present. So we’ve 95 per cent of games where there’s no medical or trained professional. Therefore our main thrust has to be education, making everyone aware.

“The GAA have gone to extensive efforts between websites, training modules and training days for everybody from players, administrators and referees.

“There’s a poster that should be up on the wall in every dressing-room in the country.”

Tipperary team doctor and former Offaly hurler Brendan Murphy said at the Croke Park Concussion Symposium in October that when a player is removed from play for a head injury assessment, he should not be allowed to return.

“I agree 100 per cent and the other side of that is that concussion is an injury that evolves. You may seem perfectly well right now but in another 24 hours you may get much worse,” said Moran.

“In the committee in Croke Park we’ve been against the head injury sub [replacing a player while he undergoes assessment].

“You take them off on suspicion and even if that means a certain number are taken off who aren’t concussed. If you take them off on suspicion, they stay off.

“This is the problem: they’re amateur players and their welfare is of paramount importance. There is no black-and-white, definitive way of deciding if somebody is concussed except to watch over 24 to 48 hours so our suspicion is about an injury that could potentially evolve.

Remember, the other part of it is that if they have been concussed and get a second impact then adult players are more likely to get second-impact syndrome, which is an acute swelling of the brain that Ben Robinson got [a 14-year-old rugby player from Carrickfergus who died in 2011] and from which there have been two deaths in women’s rugby in the UK in the past two years.”

Asked if we should see more players removed from games for suspected concussion incidents, Dr Moran (above) said: “Probably not so much in high-profile matches but in more local fixtures if there isn’t a doctor or somebody forceful there in case a manager wants the player to get up and run it off, my concern would be that it’s not always enforced. I think for nearly every big inter-county match there’s a TV camera.”

While footballers have been getting fitter, faster and stronger in recent years, Dr Moran believes that the incidences of concussion have been partly kept in check thanks to the blanket defence.

“One of the things that might have protected us in the last number of years is the blanket defence because the impacts even though they could be significant weren’t high-velocity. Fellas just didn’t get the room to build up momentum.”

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