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GAA steps up its efforts to protect players

The GAA is to further step up its efforts in terms of Cardiac screening of young players in particular.

The Croke Park Medical Scientific and Welfare Committee has already undertaken a two-year research programme in which nearly 300 GAA players were examined in an attempt to assess the effectiveness of various screening methods.

Now that the results have been assessed in detail, the Association has advised that the most effective way to identify risk is for players over the age of 14 to undergo cardiac screening on at least one occasion.

And it is also being recommended that this process should be repeated before the age of 25.

There has been increased awareness of cardiac screening in Ulster following the sudden death of Tyrone All Ireland winning hero Cormac McAnallen six years ago.

And while it is admitted that no screening programme is 100 per cent effective, screening has been shown to identify risk particularly among young players.

The GAA’s defibrillator programme which was initiated in 2005 has seen defibrillators made available at all county grounds while over 1,000 have been purchased by clubs as part of a subsidised scheme.

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Already one Belfast-based screening company has thrown its weight behind the drive to see Cardiac screening among younger players intensified.

Mark Regan, the operations director of 3fivetwo Healthcare — the largest provider of cardiac diagnostics in the province — believes that the GAA is giving a vital lead in terms of monitoring the welfare of its young players in particular.

“We fully support the proactive approach that the GAA is taking although we recommend that it should be repeated at various stages throughout a player’s career, particularly in young athletes where manifestation of several conditions can occur over time,” explains Regan.

And he adds: “We are in a position to offer a detailed physical examination by a doctor and a 12- lead ECG.

“In addition to this we can offer the individuals who have positive findings an onward pathway in-house to Consultants that specialise in managing these conditions locally with access to things like Cardiac MRI, CT and treadmills.

“And while the health of the GAA’s more youthful talent is extremely important, let us not forget that in our experience the more mature adult athletes are at even greater risk due to lifestyle and hereditary factors.”

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