Kildare football manager Cian O’Neill has revealed eight members of his panel are on the treatment table having played through injury in a bid to impress their new boss.
O’Neill, who was speaking at Saturday’s coaching conference, where it was made known that one in four injuries sustained at inter-county level are recurring injuries, lamented the GAA culture of players ignoring their body and the almost foolish determination to tog out, despite not being near full health.
“We are very lucky we have in Kildare what we also had in Kerry, a player-monitoring tool, whereby players can communicate with you every day via psychometric data; sleep quality, sleep duration, stress levels, muscle soreness.
“What that means is by 11am every day I have valuable pieces of information relating to every member of the squad,” he explained.
“If their stress levels are abnormally high, well then that could mean you making a phone call at 12 noon that day as opposed to waiting three days for the next session.”
The issue for O’Neill, however, is that his players aren’t always honest.
“One of the biggest problems I have is that with a new management, everyone is trying to impress. They just won’t tell you how sore, how tired and how injured they may be. They are concerned about forcing their way onto the panel, where we just want to know where they are at physically and mentally.
“As a result, I have eight players who have soft tissue, non-contact injuries, simply because they forced themselves through a session or a match. That is frustrating as a manager because you are still getting to know what makes them tick.”
Laois footballer Ross Munnelly, who refused to sit out last year’s campaign despite persistent back problems, believes players can be apprehensive in confiding in their manager.
“It can be a very tough place to be where you are trying to perform at a certain level, but know your body isn’t at that level. It was great for me to be able to go to our new manager, Mick Lillis, and tell him that I have a problem and I need a little bit of help with it.
“It is about having a relationship with the manager that it is okay to go and say, ‘I don’t feel I am at the level that you need me to be at and the best thing for me is to take a bit of a break.’
Dr Edwenia O’Malley, a member of the GAA’s medical, scientific and welfare committee, warned of the long-term implications for players who return to action while still carrying knocks.
She also revealed the majority of injuries at inter-county level are of a non-contact origin - 72% in football, 64% in hurling.
“The short-term consequences is that they are back on the sideline, but there could be long-term consequences too that may affect their health later in life,” cautioned Dr O’Malley.
“It is important the player is given full opportunity to rehab properly so to give them the best chance to realise their potential when they do return.”
2010 All-Ireland winning manager Liam Sheedy is concerned by the increasing number of players being sidelined at both club and inter-county level.
“I did a small bit with a club team last year and I was completely taken aback at the number of players who couldn’t train because of injury. We rang them and there was up to 12 of them who weren’t able to train because of niggling injuries. I found that stat off the Richter scale.
“When I was with Tipperary, I probably learned a lot in my first year in terms of when my second year started, our physio John Casey said the first thing you have got to do here is prehab. John screened every player at the start of the season and any lad that had a niggling injury, they got a program for six weeks before we got into the real physical training.”
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