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Concussion Cost Inevitable For GAA

DUBLIN, IRELAND - MARCH 20: The Sun falls behind the stand during the RBS Six Nations match between Ireland and Scotland at Croke Park (the GAA headquarters) on March 20, 2010 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Let’s just say that the Allianz Football Leagues for 2016 didn’t get off to the best start.

Cork’s impressive dismantling of Mayo was marred in controversy as, once again, the topic of player welfare and concussion arose within GAA circles. The men at the centre of the controversy were Mayo’s Lee Keegan and Cork’s Eoin Cadogan.

A nasty clash of heads between the opposing players, who were travelling at full speed, was greeted with a wince from just about everyone under the stand in Páirc Uí Rinn on Sunday. The wince was followed by a silence as referee Maurice Deegan immediately called a halt to proceedings as the medics rushed in.

Visibly shaken by the significant clash of heads, both players rose gingerly to their feet. Cadogan was immediately ushered to the sideline but after a brief argument with the Mayo medical team, Keegan was left to play on.

As Keegan trotted back to his position, one could see from the stand that he was not operating at 100%. The Westport man was left to play on for another ten minutes after the incident as his condition only went from bad to worse.

After falling to his knees ten minutes later, Mayo’s captain for the day was eventually helped in making his way to his team’s dugout. From the moment he took impact to his head, Keegan should have been removed from the field of play to be assessed by a doctor at least.

For the ten minutes that Keegan remained on the pitch, he was put in significant danger. The risk of second-impact syndrome was huge. Second-impact syndrome occurs when the brain swells rapidly, and catastrophically, after a person suffers a second concussion before symptoms from an earlier one have subsided.

Speaking to Newstalk after the game, Mayo’s new man in charge, Stephen Rochford, had this to say.

“The medical team were communicating with him. He was captaining the team. Sometimes you say ‘do you mind the player from himself? He was responsive in that he was communicating with the doctor. Once we were able to clearly notice that he wasn’t himself, he was pulled.”

These comments didn’t go down well with everyone as it seemed the Mayo management were a bit lackadaisical to the issue. While the fact of the matter is, the player should have been taken off earlier, it is easier to look back on the matter retrospectively.

The guidelines, the facilities and the power of team doctors must be increased to facilitate the needs of players in all GAA circles. The GAA do not have set protocols for diagnosing concussion but there are only a list of guidelines for doctors to follow.

In a sport, where head injuries are on the rise, the GAA may need to introduce independent player welfare commissioners to oversee games. With the help of technology and action replay’s, these so-called commissioners would be able to make a well-informed, correct and independent decision.

If a player takes a knock to the head, they should have to be removed from play until the commissioner can assess the player. It is then up to the commissioner to decide if the player will be left back on.

If a knock to the head is not recognised by the referee or the team doctor, the commissioner should have sufficient communication with the referee to halt proceedings and withdraw the player.

Although, Mayo’s medical and management team accepted responsibility for the mishandling of the Keegan incident last Sunday, there is too much pressure being placed on the team doctors.

After all, our games are still amateur, but every player deserves to be treated in the utmost professional way, and with an independent player welfare commissioner the medical teams of counties will be under less stress to make an instant decision and the quality of every player’s welfare will be significantly enhanced.

This suggestion will come at a significant cost to the GAA but this writer feels it is a cost that must be paid if the GAA are to avoid significant consequences down the line.

Seán Ó Murchú, Pundit Arena

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.