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Keeping muscle mass is more important than losing fat in avoiding GAA injuries

A study of GAA players has found that strength training should be year round, not just pre-season.

Stephen McDonnell receives treatment in the All-Ireland semi-final.
Stephen McDonnell receives treatment in the All-Ireland semi-final.
Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

MAINTAINING MUSCLE MASS is more important than losing fat for GAA players who want to remain injury free according to new research.

Research on senior inter-county players from the 2013/2014 season found that players who remained injury free had a higher lean body mass pre-season than those who sustained injuries.

The study was led by the Northwest Rheumatology Unit at Our Lady’s Hospital in Leitrim and found a correlation between reduction in lean muscle mass and number of injuries between pre-season and mid-season.

The research made comparisons with studies of Australian Rugby League players.

It said that Australian players often engage in strength and conditioning training in pre-season to build up muscle mass but then switch to more cardiovascular work during the season.

The research suggests that this results in both lean muscle mass and fat mass dropping simultaneously, resulting in increased rates of injury. It argues therefore that it is important to maintain lean muscle mass by continuing strength training.

The Irish study, which also included researchers from Sligo IT, UCD and NUI Galway, found that GAA players who remained injury free had a higher lean body mass pre-season than those who sustained injuries.

Players suffering from chronic injuries had a higher fat mass and lower lean muscle mass compared to those suffering acute and overuse injuries.

Simply speaking, chronic injuries are caused by wear and tear while acute injures are the result of a sudden impact or clash.

“Gaelic footballers have a high level of injury, which can be detrimental to their sporting careers and life,” according to one of the researcher Dr Carmel Silke.

“If they could look at optimising and maintaining their muscle mass through strength work and diet it could help reduce the amount of injuries and prolong their playing career.”

The research also found low vitamin D levels in the diets of the players, which the researchers hope to study further as there is a link between low vitamin D intake and muscle strength.

The results are being presented at a meeting of the Irish Society for Rheumatology being held in Dublin yesterday and today yesterday and today.

Read: Henry and Tenno have been ‘crash-test dummies’ so no Michael Rice comeback planned >

Read: ‘I wondered if I’d ever get back playing’ – Alan Brogan on injury and retirement >

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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