Almost one third of hurlers admit to modifying their helmet against GAA regulations, potentially increasing their injury risk.
A special congress motion in November 2013 lifted the liability from the GAA should a player wearing a modified helmet sustain an injury.
The rule states that for both games and training, it is mandatory for hurlers to wear helmets with facial guards that meet standards as laid out by the National Safety Authority of Ireland.
Among hurlers and camogie players who took part in research entitled Is Helmet and Faceguard Modification common in Hurling and why is it done?, faceguard replacement is the most common modification (80%), followed by removal of bars (13%), and bending of the bars on the faceguard.
The research says a rule change “such as mandatory checks on helmets and faceguards by referees prior to matches, to ensure no modifications have been completed should be introduced, similar to the boots check completed in soccer”.
The study, by the School of Health and Human Performance, Dublin City University, and the Department of Sport and Health Sciences, Athlone Institute of Technology, is the first to examine the prevalence of modifications in hurling and camogie since helmets became mandatory, starting with U18s in 2005 and mandatory for all ages by 2010.
It found that players seem more influenced by appearance than safety considerations when choosing their helmet brand: Two in five (43%) chose based on appearance while just 1.6% cited safety as the main reason for their choice. Price was a factor for one in five.
Almost half of the 304 players (62% hurlers, 38% camogie players) who took part in the study, all aged over 18, know more than seven other players who modified their helmet.
Vision restriction, comfort and a perceived view that their helmet is of poor quality were the primary reasons given.
Some 31% of players admitted to modifying their own helmet/faceguard and 8.0% reported that their helmet/faceguard was already modified when they purchased it.
Four in five players wear their helmets during team training (82%).
However, during individual training, just 24% wear a helmet. Some 75% of players reported that they were not fitted correctly when purchasing their helmet.
The research, published in the Irish Medical Journal, says helmets should be worn at all times “where the hurley and sliotar is in use”.
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