With the beginning of the GAA season seemingly earlier each year, and the increased demands being placed on players of all levels, injury prevention is growing in importance. 2 out of every 3 players on a GAA team will get injured at least once in a season. The important thing to note is that many of these injuries can be prevented through adequate pre-season preparation and structured training sessions. Some important aspects to build into your injury prevention programme include: 

Warm Up – Dynamic warm ups, e.g. walking lunges, high knees, heel kicks, power skipping etc., are those which involve continuous movement. These movements should be tailored to emphasize sports specific muscle groups that will be used during the activity. Dynamic warm-ups help to increase core temperature gradually and have been shown to increase power, explosiveness and overall performance.   

Sport Specific Training – Completing a GAA specific training is also important to ensure match readiness. Incorporating short explosive sprints mixed with distance running will simulate what happens during a match. Similarly, incorporating ball drills, jumping/landing, and stopping/turning drills will provide good carryover from training to matches. As lower limbs are most commonly injured in GAA, including lower limb strengthening of quads, hamstrings, glutes etc. will reduce the risk of injury.  

Cool Down – Incorporating a cool down after a training session or a match gradually brings the body back to its core temperature. A 10 to 20-minute cool down facilitates faster regeneration and recovery from the strains of training. Progressively lower intensity exercises and static stretching can help remove the build-up of lactic acid in the muscles, which can cause cramping and stiffness. 

Optimal Fitness – 50-60% of all injuries occur in the second half of play when players are tiring. As such, it is important to be at a full level of fitness prior to competing in matches. Fitness is not only measured by how long we can run for but includes strength, balance, endurance, flexibility, speed, coordination etc. Optimal physical conditioning decreases the risk of injury, and the severity of an injury should one occur. 

Rest and Recovery – A number of aspects are important to consider during the recovery phase following a training session/match. A nutritious meal including protein and carbohydrates will encourage muscle building and repair.  Maintaining proper hydration during a training session/match can reduce the amount of dehydration by replacing fluids lost through sweating. Energy drinks should be avoided as the high caffeine content contributes to further dehydration. Adequate sleep is also a major part of recovery to help reduce mental fatigue. Poor sleep is related to slower reaction times, decreased physical performance and increased risk of injury and illness, so it will also help you prepare for the next training/match.  

Finally, up to ¼ of injuries during the GAA season are a re-occurrence of an old injury. Therefore, completing a thorough rehab programme and a graduated return to sport is vital. If you feel you have any ‘niggles’ or strains that need attending to prior to the start of your GAA season, please contact us here at BodyBalance Physiotherapy.