Fitness expert Mike McGurn has predicted “a pandemic” of injuries will emerge when GAA club players return to competitive action from next week.
The former Ireland rugby, International Rules and Armagh senior football strength and conditioning coach, now the lead S&C figure in Queen’s University, also believes a lack of qualification among some individuals responsible for teams’ fitness will also emerge in the coming weeks.
From what he’s seen and heard, McGurns forecasts the desperation to cram ahead of the new season will have serious consequences.
“It’s not that the time players have had to prepare is not long enough; it’s what they’re doing in that time period. Most clubs are getting three or four weeks, which on the back of what they got done earlier in the year or late last year is enough because of the fact muscle memory will kick in.
“But it’s because they’re thinking, ‘Shit, we’ve only got three or four weeks, we have to go ballistic from the start’ and all of a sudden these forces that have been generated on the muscles and ligaments are too much and the body’s breaking down.
“If they’re smarter, they’ll look to train through any league or challenge games and use them as preparation and they’ll be fine by championship. But they’re not, they’re milling in from session number one and think they have to play catch-up when they don’t and they need to progress and graduate it. They’re doing is too much, too soon and it’s panicking.”
The warning signs are there for all to see with the return of professional sport, the Fermanagh man says.
“If it’s happening in the Bundesliga and the Premier League, with all the expertise that they have, what’s it going to be like in the GAA? There’s going to be a pandemic of injuries, hamstrings and groins.
“Another thing that isn’t spoken about much is when you train you don’t get the same hormonal and adrenal response that you get in a match. If you’re not getting a certain level of progressive training and games to use as competitive preparation for matches all sorts of things can happen.
“It’s not a case of ‘oh, there’s the green light, let’s go training and if we get injured, we get injured’. That’s bullshit, that is real archaic training, especially in this day and age with all the knowledge and information that is available.”
McGurn shudders when he thinks of the number of coaches who are assigned to GAA teams only because they know the manager. Such looseness requires stronger governance, he believes.
“I have a real issue with some of the appointments within the GAA when it comes to fitness and strength. If you are a neighbour of the manager and he wants you to become the fitness coach and you have feck-all qualifications there is no legislation to say you must be qualified.
“I think what the next few weeks is going to highlight within the GAA is their need to start professionalising who takes who. What long-term damage is a guy, who is not qualified to give out strength and fitness programmes, doing to those players?
“They have a duty of care to stand over what they prescribe. If you are providing a programme that involves muscles, ligaments, the heart, lungs and kidneys, you have to stand over that from a health point of view. If that player comes back to you in 10 years and says, ‘That programme you gave me with all those deadlifts wrecked my back, I’m not able to work’ well then you should have a problem on your hands.
“If you are a strength coach in America, you have a 20-year period where you’re liable for any programme you’ve written that could cause injury. That’s why insurance premiums are so high; you need a policy of up to $1 million (€881,855) to cover you, in some cases $2m (€1.76m) in the event an athlete sues you.”