GAA Return To Play

GAA Injuries Comments Off on GAA Return To Play

Slow and steady wins the race

With the world of GAA returning to training in the North from this week, the desire to jump straight back into high-intensity work is going to be off the charts. 

Following months in the wilderness, so to speak, being unable to officially work together as teams and even in small groups, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, teams across the six counties have already been out in force as they make a long-awaited comeback top the pitch. 

While many have been doing their own training over the lockdown period, very little can replicate the intensity of a team training session. However, with that comes the hugely increased likelihood of injuries occurring, something we saw plenty of during the truncated season last year. 

Top physiotherapist Frank Quinn, who has worked with the Down Senior Footballers over the years and has also been a part of the backroom team at Sunderland under the management of both Howard Wilkinson and Mick McCarthy, delved into the details of why some injuries on return to play are inevitable, how they can be avoided as much as possible and what players should be doing to minimise the risk of their seasons ending before they’ve even begun. 

“For me, the key thing is appreciating the full array of physical demands that Gaelic Games are made up of, and training for all those. A lot of people have been running 5ks and 10ks in parks and various places but they need to be getting back into agility and twisting and turning. If you’re trying to prevent injuries, you’re trying to prevent them from the full repertoire of anatomical aspects to the body,” explains Frank, who runs the Physio Group, with practices in Newry, Newcastle and Belfast.  

“So, it’s not just muscles, it’s ligaments and tendons as well. Tendons are a part of accelerating and decelerating, ligaments are a part of twisting and turning and what give the brain the signals to be aware of joint position etc. If you’ve been fairly linear and one-dimensional up to now, yes, you’ll have brought in a wee bit of endurance to the muscles. But it will be a bit one-dimensional in terms of speed. 

“It should be a case of beginning with plenty of agility work and then look at building up the pace of what you’re doing. For example, work at half-pace for a week and get the players operating with multi-directional activities that they haven’t been doing up to now. Controlled and uncontrolled turning, reaction work, is another progression. 

“You can set the cones out and ask players to move in a certain direction around them and utilise controlled turning, which is what we would use a lot of in rehab work. The progression to uncontrolled turning is a different dynamic and a different demand of the joints of the body to react to that.” 


While all the precautions in the world can be taken in order to avoid unnecessary knocks and niggles, if you want to get to the level required to perform to the best of your ability, intensity of training and pushing your body to certain limits are a given. 

With that comes the increased likelihood of your body giving in to some degree throughout the training process. 

“I think it is inevitable, because the longer you’ve been away from high-intensity exercise, the harder it is to get back to that level. So, there will be a degree of deconditioning so to speak,” admits Frank.  

“Even though the majority of injuries in Gaelic Games are still non-contact related, game scenarios still provide most of the statistics for injuries. If it’s the case where they’re going to cram more games into a shorter period of times than they would in comparison to any other year, by that definition alone, there are going to be more injuries.  

“What we learnt last year from the compacted season was that, if you are unfortunate enough to pick up an injury, then the likelihood is that you’re going to miss the main part of the competition you’re playing in. 

“Injuries will be inevitable, but they don’t have to be. The demands on the fixture makers are big. They might have to go with some things they don’t want to do, but have to. But, if a team is patient and has a manager or a coach confident enough to map out the season, it is possible to do well. A lot of the teams last year at the start of the Senior Football Leagues in Down weren’t overly competitive in it and were using it for the purpose of getting back up to speed in preparation for the Championship.   

“The key is for a manager to really know when he wants his players fit and peaking, to approach the season up to that point in a structured manner that will minimise the risk of injury,”.

“It all depends how those players have utilised their time. Rest alone will allow healing time for injuries, but it doesn’t necessarily prepare people of the particular demands of what the sport are,” he explains.  

“If you’ve been out for a long period of time, your body adapts or responds to overload. You have to challenge the body to do a wee bit more than it has previously done. That allows the body to adapt to the demands you’ve placed on it. It will lay down a thicker framework of muscle, stronger tendons and ligaments etc and that has to be an accumulation. As long as you’re on a rising plane of that over time, then that time will have been of benefit to those players. 

“At that stage, they will become injury free, they’ll be robust enough and they know that they’ve pushed their bodies to the normal demands of what games situations might be. Even though we haven’t had games in a long time, you can still get to a high level of simulating the demands of a game in a rehab situation.”  

If this is something that is giving you trouble and would like to book an appointment with Frank, you can do so by contacting us through the information below:

    *Article credit: Gareth McCullough – Newry Reporter Sports Editor*