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News / June 23, 2010

Hurling away headgear increases dental injuries

by Guy Hiscott

A new study has revealed that the majority of facial and dental injuries treated at one major hospital were sustained while hurling players were involved in training but not wearing any protective headgear.

Hurling players are suffering injuries in significant numbers, particularly in training, despite rule changes on the use of helmets.

The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) made headgear with faceguards mandatory for under-18 players in January 2005, before extending it to under-21s in April 2006. In January of this year, wearing standardised helmets was made compulsory for all adult matches. However, many players are still neglecting to wear a helmet during practice sessions.

Dr Colm Murphy, who led the new research, wrote in the Irish Medical Journal: ‘Many facial and ocular injuries may be prevented by wearing helmets. Thus, players must be encouraged to persevere until they become accustomed to them.’

The research also revealed that among those players who wore helmets, injuries were higher with modified faceguards. Modification can include removing bars covering the face in order to improve vision and comfort.

The researchers stress the need for players to wear helmets that conform to European safety standards and said the GAA was right to insist that all players use standardised facial protection.

The research findings for men and women treated for hurling injuries at Limerick Regional Hospital showed that, of the 70 patients seen, 42 were hurt during practice sessions. The other 28 were injured in matches. As many as 52 of the injured players were not wearing a helmet, with only 18 wearing protective headgear.

‘We found there was poor compliance with wearing helmets during training… we questioned the group of 31 players who did not wear helmets and 21 said that if they were playing a match they would have worn the protective headgear. This reveals poor compliance with helmet usage in training,’ stated the authors.

It is estimated that around 200,000 people play hurling in Ireland.