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Leading sports medic warns of concussion danger at grassroots

Gaelic Games

By Declan Bogue

A leading sports doctor and former All-Ireland-winning manager has warned about the dangers of concussions in GAA games hosted in remote areas, with no medical assistance or expertise available.

The GAA have announced that Ireland's first symposium on the red-button issue of concussion will take place on October 8 in Croke Park.

A keynote speaker at the event is Dr Pat O'Neill, who managed Dublin to the All-Ireland in 1995 and is an Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Consultant, as well as being involved with the IRFU in this area.

Dr O'Neill brought up the elephant in the room about concussion at grassroots level, namely that there may not be a doctor at most club games.

Speaking with Croke Park as a backdrop, he said: "It is a completely different situation being able to manage it here, on a day when you have the facilities, and a junior B game in a remote area.

"It is the same head injury, it is the same consequences, same issues that goes with it. So it is really just an educational process to get everyone thinking along the same lines, get all the stakeholders involved, managers, the coaches, strength and conditioning people, the referees who are central to this, and then all the medical and allied people, getting them to work off the same agenda."

The announcement of this venture is timely, given how Mayo and Dublin are set to face off for the All-Ireland football final replay.

Three years ago the same two sides met in the decider and by the end of the match Dublin's Rory O'Carroll was clearly walking around concussed, while Johnny Cooper and Paul Flynn also suffered blows to the head.

At that time the players were not keen on coming off the pitch, but that mindset is no longer acceptable. A 'Frontline' investigation in America put the figure at 87 out of 91 former NFL players tested as having evidence of brain disease, with concussion considered part of their job.

Dr O'Neill discussed the difficulties in determining the condition.

"One of the problems with concussion is are players in a position to make that decision because concussion is a confused state?

"It is really not a players' decision about what needs to be done, when they do have to make that decision, that decision will be made for them. That is part of the education process."

The stake holders are University of Pennsylvania Medical Centre Sports Medicine Concussion Programme, who are the leading concussion experts in America, along with Bon Secours Health System.

A morning session will be aimed at health professionals who are charged with determining if a player is suffering from concussion, while the afternoon section is open to coaches, players and administrators who wish to learn of the latest research and treatment in the field.

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