IN the immediate aftermath of Ireland’s overwhelming defeat to Argentina in the Rugby World Cup earlier this year, Keith Wood, the former Ireland hooker, remarked on the physical make-up of the Argentinians saying that there is a ‘noticeable shift in Southern Hemisphere teams towards slimmer players’. Indeed several commentators made note of the return of ‘running style’ rugby during they World Cup.
Earlier this year and closer to home, the Dublin talisman Bernard Brogan was giving an interview where he was asked about the impressive physicality of the Dublin footballers and their ability to over-power teams, but the experienced All Star reminded his interviewer that ‘running is still the main component of the game’.
These comments remind us that maybe the focus of the physical preparation for GAA players needs to more adapted to the specific components of the sport we play. Almost every club in the country now has had a gym of some sort installed. Most secondary schools too have been pushing strength training for years now.
The problem evolves if we train our bodies for resistance exercise and not enough time spent on the other physical attributes required to play our games. A flick through YouTube will show you the multi-faceted approach by the All-Blacks to physical preparation.
In the past I have seen them squatting with brush shafts, team pilates classes and many agility drills through ladders and cones. The outcome of incorrect physical preparation is that when you come to play the actual game your body is not suited to the demands of the sport.
This results in injury. In physiotherapy we can see these trends happening in Gaelic Games. In some cases you only have to look at the posture of players to know that the training is not right eg. tight pec muscles that pull the shoulder joints into internal rotation so much so that the most comfortable way to hold the arms in a relaxed position is to hold them both behind your back. I haven’t seen any players carry a ball in this position yet!
More worrying is the inability of 18-24 year old players (who have been weight training long before their body was mature enough to do so) to string five or six games together without picking up some sort of injury.
Injuries in GAA are on the up and players are filling the operating rooms in Belfast and Dublin as a result. (Thankfully we physios get a turn out of it too!) So much so that the Ulster Council has seen fit to appoint a major Health Provider as its ‘Medical Partner’.
Already in the off-season we have seen one piece of injury research to highlight injury problems in the youth (the National Adolescent Injury Prevention Programme) and the GAA will no doubt spend further money to outside bodies to come up with further programmes (I’ll come to that another day) to try to rectify the problem of spiralling injury trends but perhaps they should spend more on educating members on the correct preparation for the sport as the best form of prevention. Trying to mimic what you think the top-level teams are doing is a dangerous game.
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