Background: Gaelic football is a national sport of Ireland. While predominantly played in Ireland, it is recognized in North America, the United Kingdom, Europe, and Australasia. Its high-velocity, multidirectional, and high physical contact elements expose players to a risk of injury. To date, prospective injury data for Gaelic football has been of short duration.
Purpose: To describe the incidence and nature of sport-related injuries in elite male Gaelic football players over 4 consecutive seasons.
Study design: Descriptive epidemiology study.
Methods: Over the period 2007 to 2010, a total of 851 Gaelic football players were tracked. Players were members of county-level teams who volunteered to be included in the study. Team injury, training, and match play data were submitted by the team physiotherapist on a weekly basis through a dedicated web portal to the National Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) injury database. Injury was defined using a time loss criterion, in accordance with consensus statements in sports applicable to Gaelic games.
Results: A total of 1014 Gaelic football injuries were recorded. Incidence of injury was 4.05 per 1000 hours of football training. Match-play injury rates were 61.86 per 1000 hours. Muscle was the most frequently injured tissue (42.6%) and fractures accounted for 4.4% of Gaelic football injuries. Lower extremity injuries predominated (76.0%). Hamstring injuries were the single most common injury overall, representing almost one quarter (24%) of all injuries and over half of muscle injuries. Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries accounted for 13% of knee injuries. The majority of injuries were defined as new injuries (74.7%), with recurrent injuries constituting 23% of all injuries. The majority (59%) of match play injuries occurred in the second half of the match. Eighty six percent of injuries caused over one week's absence from play.
Conclusion: These findings illustrate injury patterns in Gaelic football using a prospective methodology, over 4 consecutive seasons. Comparison with published literature suggests that Gaelic football match play injury risk is greater than soccer but less than rugby union.