The lengths they go to

ONCE upon a time, cryotherapy was all the rage in Irish rugby. Former national coach Eddie O’Sullivan certainly subscribed to it.

Pre-season training camps in Spala in Poland always took in their infamous cold locker.

The practice isn’t advocated as much under Declan Kidney but it continues to be prevalent at the top of Gaelic games.

When Henry Shefflin tore his cruciate and Brian Hogan damaged his shoulder in the first-half of last year’s All-Ireland semi-final win over Cork, there was only one place they were going — White’s Hotel, Co Wexford.

On the advice of team doctor Tadhg Crowley, the pair jumped into the back of a taxi almost bellowing directions, Batman-like, “To the cryo chamber”.

The pair had to listen to the second half of the game but Crowley’s belief was the severe cold would lower the inflammation and speed up the healing.

Tommy Walsh was whisked to the hotel a couple of weeks later immediately after hurting his shoulder in a club match.

Certainly, the lengths Shefflin was prepared to go to avoid surgery (the cryotheraphy, John Tennyson and himself moving to Limerick for two weeks for painful and exhaustive rehab work with Ger Hartmann) and start last year’s All-Ireland final has demonstrated how prepared Gaelic players are to do whatever’s necessary to play.

Remember Seanie McMahon strapping up his strong shoulder in 1995 to give the impression that it was his damaged joint when it was the other was hurt? Things, of course, have got a lot more sophisticated since then. Even more than Shefflin’s situation last year, in fact. Take Kerry’s Tommy Griffin, for example, who has turned to blood-spinning to get himself fit for this year’s championship.

Griffin was already recovering from ankle surgery before Christmas when he damaged a hamstring tendon playing for Dingle in January.

The problem has denied him any football with Kerry so far this year but he is close to making a full return to training.

In his quest to get fit, he has visited Barringtons Hospital in Limerick as well as Cork University Hospital via Irish rugby doctor, Dr Eanna Falvey, to undergo a couple of blood-spinning therapy sessions.

Also known as platelet-rich plasma therapy, blood-spinning involves taking samples of the athlete’s blood and whisking them in a centrifuge to increase the number of growth hormones.

Calcium and the enzyme thrombin are then added, forming a gel which is then injected into the damaged area, which is claimed to heal the injury five times faster.

In Griffin’s case, blood from his hand was drawn and mixed before it was inserted into his tendon.

He wouldn’t necessarily be a supporter of the procedure but was advised it was a viable form of reducing his recovery time.

“I wouldn’t recommend doing it a lot,” says Griffin, who has also done cryotherapy sessions in recent years to combat his ankle problems. “It’s an unpleasant enough process. It’s just another way of trying to get myself right and back playing football.”

Blood-spinning hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons two years ago when Tiger Woods’ blood-spinning doctor, Dr Tony Galea, was arrested on drugs charges after admitting he treated patients with substances not officially approved.

The technique is permitted by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on the proviso that the injection is not “administered by intramuscular route”.

As Griffin was getting the injection into his tendon, he has nothing to worry about other than getting himself right for a tilt at making Jack O’Connor’s team later this summer. But his determination only goes to highlight how bad he wants it. He’s not alone.

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