Cork’s Ciaran Sheehan became the latest high-profile GAA player to succumb to the cruciate curse when he was stretchered off during the Munster final against Kerry last Sunday to join a long queue of fellow victims.
County colleague Colm O’Neill, Kerry’s David Moran, Kildare’s Dermot Earley, Mayo’s Conor Mortimer, Meath’s David Bray and Derry’s Paddy Bradley, are all in various stages of recuperation after similar injuries.
Nor has the pattern been restricted to football. Henry Shefflin has just returned to hurling after suffering his second bout of the complaint in the space of just three seasons and there are many more besides, at all levels of the two codes.
With that in mind, the MSWC is currently in the midst of a pilot study to examine the biomechanics of the knee, how it operates, and what effects that has on the cruciate for players in the long run.
The Gaelic Games Doctors Association is also on the case. The body, along with physiotherapists involved in the GAA, meets once a year every November and cruciates will be the focus of their attention in four months’ time.
Dr Danny Mulvihill, founder of the doctors association and current chairman of the MSWC, is also hoping that research carried out elsewhere can shed some light on the issue and provide a breakthrough in the fight against this most dreaded of injuries.
“The thing is that this is a very unexplored area,” said Dr Mulvihill. “There was a prehab programme done in the United States for female soccer players and that reduced the incidence there hugely. Whether that can be transferable to the men’s game here remains to be seen.”
There is some evidence to suggest that female sportspeople are more susceptible to experiencing cruciate complaints than their male counterparts and the anecdotal evidence provided by the experiences of Cork’s ladies football panel would back that up.
Since 2005, 15 of the Rebel girls have suffered cruciate injuries of some kind. Amy O’Shea, the current captain, has had the misfortune to suffer twice.
O’Shea spent 13 months on the sidelines after the first incident and returned just eight months after her second, a decision which proved to be unwise as she broke down soon afterwards, so she is well aware of the seriousness of the situation.
A friend of O’Shea’s, who studied physiotherapy at UL and published a thesis on the area of cruciate injuries among female athletes, has filled her in on some of the finer details.
“Girls would develop more muscle tone by the time they are playing U16 from the time they played U14,” O’Shea explained. “Then at 16 your hips widen but unfortunately your knees stay in line and they maintain that could be it.
“The first question another trainer asked me the first time I did mine was ‘were you playing in blades’ which I wasn’t. Then you have the side of things where people build up their quads to have the power and the strength but I don’t know, after doing two I can’t see any set trend.”
That is exactly what the GAA’s medical experts will be hoping to discover in the months and years to come.