The GAA and GPA are backing brain injury specialists Acquired Brain Injury Ireland and their Concussion Awareness Video Campaign. The organisations are appealing to players, coaches, volunteers and parents to watch the online video and educate themselves about concussion management for player welfare.
Tipperary hurling star, Noel McGrath is acting as an ambassador for this campaign, assisting Acquired Brain Injury Ireland Regional Manager Mary Heffernan to roll out the campaign at county level in Tipperary; raising awareness of the injury amongst our current and up and coming stars.
Ms Heffernan spoke strongly about the importance of this campaign, and the necessity for all GAA coaches and players to get behind it; she said ““Concussion is an injury that must be taken seriously. If a player returns to the field with a concussion they put themselves at risk of second impact syndrome; during which the brain swells rapidly, resulting in a serious brain injury. Players who do not manage concussion seriously are leaving themselves susceptible to a long-term endurance of a collection of concussion symptoms, including headaches, depression, personality change, memory and concentration problems, sleep disturbance and mood swings”.
“Due to the lack of education surrounding both brain injury and concussion, players perceive it as ‘just a bang to the head, nothing’s broken’, and so continue to play on whilst injured. These players need to be taken out of the game by a coach, mentor or parent, ensure they are assessed by a medical professional, rest until symptom free, and have adequate rehab before returning to play”, she continued.
Research conducted by the GPA and ABI Ireland in relation to hard hits and concussion within Gaelic games, showed 54% of those surveyed reported having endured a concussion during play. 44% admitted to having sustained a concussion between 2-5 times. When asked about concussion management and adhering to return-to-play guidelines, 58% admitted to continuing to play while concussed; with 42% of these noting they played on and didn’t remember the rest of the game.
Following an impact to the head, most players recorded suffering a number of concussion symptoms at once; with dizziness, headaches, blurry vision and confusion being the most common experienced.
Fermanagh footballer Mark McGovern, who is an ambassador for the organisation, following his off-the-ball assault which left him with a brain injury and in a coma for five weeks, spoke of the trauma he endured last Summer, in Croke Park last week.
“I was very unlucky, what happened to me in San Francisco was a deliberate assault as opposed to an on-field sporting accident. It was severe un-sportsmanship qualities that left me in rehab for almost a year, and changed my life forever. After a lot of intense rehab, one year later I have made a 95% recovery; although unfortunately I will never play Gaelic football again. As ambassador my message to players is to look after their heads”, he said.
The identification of concussion can be a difficult challenge due to the fact that every concussion is unique and no two concussions present identically. In addition to this the signs and symptoms may not present immediately after the player takes a hit to the head, but may evolve over several hours after the hit or collision has occurred.”
Speaking at the local launch, Tipperary’s Noel McGrath who is supporting this campaign, and features in the video, made reference to the introduction of the mandatory wearing of helmets, which was introduced in January 2010, he said, “At the time many players were uncomfortable and perhaps annoyed when the wearing of helmets became compulsory, because they weren’t used to wearing them. They felt if affected their vision for play. However now I don’t think any player would contemplate playing without a helmet, when you see the damage that can be caused. Nonetheless, the helmet doesn’t put a player risk-free from enduring a concussion; it will reduce the severity of any head injury that might be caused by a hit to the head with a hurl, but hurlers still need to be aware of this”.
The Concussion Awareness Video campaign themed Not Always a Knock-Out invites players to remember If it doesn’t feel right, it usually isn’t, and so to get yourself off the pitch. ABI Ireland has also produced Concussion Awareness Wallet Cards for players and coaches, issuing the signs and symptoms to look out for, and initial rest equals recovery guidelines to adhere to. For more information or to order a batch of cards for your club contact Acquired Brain Injury Ireland, Cashel, Co Tipperary on 062-64544
The two Concussion Awareness videos for the campaign will be issued to all GAA clubs throughout the country and can also be viewed on all three organisational websites www.abiireland.ie www.gaa.ie and www.gaelicplayers.com