Gaelic Football is one of the most popular sports in Ireland, with almost every town and parish in the country supporting a local team. An extremely fast, skilful and physical game, injuries are an unfortunate feature in every footballers experience. Knowing the most common injuries that affect players can help us develop prevention strategies, which will reduce the amount of time you’re unable to train or play.
On average, Gaelic footballers sustain more than one injury per year, and 35% of these injuries are previous injuries that are reoccurring. Three quarters of all injuries are in the legs, and 35% of all injuries occur during training sessions, so warming up before training sessions is just as important as warming up before matches. The two most common areas of injury for footballers, in reverse order are as follows:
2. Hamstring Injuries
The second most common injuries in this sport are hamstring sprains and tears. The extremely fast paced nature of the game, requiring sudden changes in speed to beat or catch opposing players, predispose players to this injury. Significant muscle fatigue in the second half of matches also increases the risk of hamstring injuries, which is inherent in severe endurance sports like Gaelic football.
Prevention: Comprehensive stretching routines before training and matches are very important, as they can temporarily increase hamstring length and flexibility (for about 60 minutes). As the hamstrings are a group of muscles (not just one muscle), learning how to alter exercises to stretch the individual muscles is especially important. However, the best way to prevent hamstring injury is hamstring strengthening training, with target exercises to make the muscle more resistant to damage.
1. Ankle Sprains
Ankle sprains are the most common injury in gaelic football. Rapid twists, turns and changes in directions coupled with (un)planned collisions all result in your ankles being put at risk. Furthermore, after your first ankle sprain you’re more likely to suffer future ankle sprains, so it’s often an injury that can keep representing without the proper rehabilitation and prevention strategies.
Prevention: In the days and weeks after injury, learning how to apply accurate ankle taping can help to give the ankle more support while it’s healing. The best results for both ankle rehabilitation and injury prevention are with balance and co-ordination training. These help improve the strength of the supporting muscles, the sharpness of the reflexes, and the overall endurance and flexibility of the ankle joint.
Here at Flynn Medical Exercise, our chartered physiotherapists run injury prevention classes in local GAA clubs of which any/all of your players can avail. Our classes focus on preventing ankle, hamstring, knee and back injuries with the aim of making you and your team-mates stronger competitors and giving you all the best chance of preventing injuries which would otherwise keep you out of the game.
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Seán Flynn is the Senior Physiotherapist with Flynn Medical Exercise, and takes patients in their Sandyford clinic. For more information on starting injury prevention classes in your GAA club, why not give us a call? PH: 0861546175