GAA expresses concern about players' creatine use

The use of creatine by GAA players is set to come under the microscope in the next year as the GAA, along with the Irish Sports Council, look to monitor the use of the controversial substance by its members.

Dr Pat Duggan, chairman of the GAA's Medical, Scientific and Welfare Committee, conceded that while it was his belief that the use of creatine by GAA players was "not that prevalent", he said that his committee would be addressing the issue over the next year.

"Currently, the Irish Sports Council are looking at the whole area and we did not want to pre-empt that," said Duggan.

"My own feeling is that whatever about the legality or otherwise of creatine, no medical person could ever recommend children under 18 years of age ever dabbling in it."

The former Dublin team doctor stressed that in the wider sports spectrum, the use of creatine by underage athletes is a major problem.

"Without a shadow of doubt there is a problem with children under 18 taking creatine, not necessarily within the GAA.

"But, to me, it is a crying shame that creatine is available in outlets and various gyms, so that vulnerable kids have ready access to it.

"We don't know if creatine does any harm, but for sure it shouldn't be used by kids under 18.

"I don't believe it is a big issue with the under-18s within the GAA, but if it's being used by a group in society then it's not unreasonable to expect that if the rugby players are using it, the GAA players are going to start using it at under-age level."

Duggan was speaking at the launch of four reports by his committee, including a new eight-page pocket sized 'Player Welfare Booklet' aimed at both club and inter-county players.

Sligo team doctor and member of the committee, Dr Joe Gillespie, emphasised the importance of the document.

"We wanted something that would be easy to use and fit into a kit bag. That would be easy to understand and that the information contained within it would be quality information," he said.

"It looks simple but a lot of thought went into it to ensure the information was accurate and good quality and evidence based."

Crowley outlined some of the topics contained in the document.

"We tried to cover multiple topics including what to do at the time of an emergency, we looked at the prevention and treatment of injuries and we looked at the specific injuries of concussion also.

"There's a copy of our cardiac screening questionnaire also, which is a pre-screening questionnaire and that's quite topical. There's a section about drug taking and drug testing. There are also two articles on hydration and nutrition."

Amongst those to contribute to the publication were DCU Sports Science Professor and GAA coach Dr Niall Moyna and Dr Tadhg Crowley, who is the Kilkenny senior hurling team doctor.

The Cats were one of nine teams last year to take part in a pilot study in the development of a Player Injury Database, with the hurlers of Antrim and Offaly also taking part.

The Cork footballers and hurlers also took part in the project as did the footballers of Armagh, Cavan, Dublin and Sligo.

The project, co-ordinated by UCD School of Physiotherapy and Performance Science lecturer John C Murphy MISCP, is fully funded by the GAA.

"This is an innovative, ambitious and forward thinking initiative by the GAA. This is a huge thing for an amateur organisation to take on board and begin," Murphy said.

"It involves getting the medical doctors and team physios to give information on injuries on a very regular period. The aims of the project were to record all injuries sustained by participating teams."

The report confirmed that hurlers are more injury prone than their football counterparts.

On a weekly average, although 2.4 new injuries are expected in a football squad of 32 players as opposed to hurlers recording two new injuries a week, hurlers are more prone to injury recurrences.

"One in every 6.6 injuries in hurling was a recurrent injury but one in every 4.2 injuries in Gaelic football was a recurrent injury," according to the report.

GAA players are more prone to hamstring injuries than their Aussie Rules counterparts. Just 19% of AFL players' injuries were due to torn hamstrings in 2006, with 24% of hurlers pulling their hamstring as opposed to 23% of footballers.

Although club teams have not been considered for the study, Murphy believes that the provision of an annual report of injuries will be beneficial to all as both an educational and injury prevention tool.

The project is being rolled out to include five more teams this year with the footballers of Down, Tyrone and Kerry to come on board along with the hurlers of Dublin and Tipperary.

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