Late last year the WGPA asked for any stories or experiences players may have had regarding injuries and it led me to think of the physical, mental and emotional demands that are put on players, and that players put on themselves to play.
The stories that came back were quite surprising in terms of severity and the impact they had on everyday life.
At a recent Ashbourne Cup match I spoke to a young girl who had just had an operation done on her knee and was told by the surgeon that she would be out for a minimum of 6-8 weeks.
She then told me that she was anxious to play in her club All Ireland semi-final the following Sunday and felt under pressure to play for her university the very next day because she was on a sports scholarship.
The worrying part was not only the pressure that the player was putting on herself but also that she was worried what people would think because she would be missing a match.
Injuries are part and parcel of any sport. Very few players particularly those in contact sports escape injury at least once in their careers.
When I was injured I was always in bad form, I hated not playing and not training mostly because I loved it but also because I felt that if I didn’t train or play then I was letting people down.
Sometimes the problems were small niggles or tightness that could be run off but on a couple of occasions I suffered more serious injuries that I should have looked after better.
I wasn’t doing myself any justice but I also wasn’t being fair to my teammates by giving them less than 100%.
Players can be a small bit selfish in that they are only thinking they are missing a game or a training session but there is a much bigger picture particularly for amateur athletes and especially for female amateur athletes.
Two of my closest friends have experienced career threatening injuries that could have implications for their health and well-being later in life.
Karen had such a serious injury that she was advised not to have the surgery and that it was unlikely she would play again.
The other girl had just made a life changing decision to join the cadets when she had the misfortune of tearing her cruciate ligament.
Sustaining their injuries whilst playing had such an impact on their personal and professional lives that extended long beyond the aftermath of the initial injury.
Due to the improvements in insurance schemes both players had their operations and physio bills paid for but they did have to take time out of work in order to recover.
Throughout the past couple of years my sister Sara Louise has had a recurring hip injury that requires her to carefully manage her training and playing load, she is only in her mid-twenties (late) but the injury is a result of wear and tear.
The GPA released a report in July of this year stating that there has been a rise of 392% in hip surgeries within the GAA between 2007 and 2014.
One of the stories that came out of a WGPA discussion was a young girl who was doing her leaving cert.
During the course of a game she sustained concussion but as a result she missed over two months of school, was partially blind and lost some power in her hands.
I know that this is an extreme example but this injury shows how serious a head injury is and also the massive impact it can have on everyday life.
The above examples highlight injuries that are diagnosed quite quickly but there are those niggling or silent injuries that nobody can say for certain what it is except that you know yourself that something isn’t right.
Recurring injuries can be extremely hard to get over, but a physio recently told me that a lot of the time the injuries aren’t rehabbed properly and players aren’t given (or take) the time they need to fully recover especially if there is a run of fixtures or an important game coming up.
Being injured is extremely frustrating, it can leave you feeling a bit resentful and bitter towards the game especially when you can’t work and have no income coming in.
The road to recovery after injury can be long and very lonely especially when all you have ever known is training and playing as part of a team.
I’m not a physio nor have I any expertise so all of the above is based on personal experiences and the experiences of close friends and family.
Julie, Karen, Sara Louise and Grainne took the same qualities that made them into top players and used it to overcome their injuries – since their comeback’s they have all played massive parts in winning All Ireland titles with their counties.
The road to recovery can be a long one but for anyone who is struggling with injury at the minute it can be a very worthwhile one. Listen to the physios but also listen to what your body is telling you.
Unfortunately the next article I write will be from the white sands of Bondi Beach….instead of doing a preseason this year I am taking off travelling for a month around Australia.
I look forward to seeing in person the impact of the GAA in a foreign country and the different lifestyles involved.
I could tell you that I will be carrying out essential research for the Gaelic Life on the GAA abroad but then again the chances are you would know I was lying.