Hurling Injuries

Hurlers are 19 times more likely to get injured during a match than during training

  1. What are the most common hurling injuries?
  2. Are Hurlers less fit than Gaelic footballers?

This study followed 4 inter-county teams, a total of 127 hurlers, for a full season.

82% of players were injured during the season. That is 204 injuries to 104 players.

In a squad of 30-32 players, one can expect 4 players to be injured in any given week.

90% of these injuries were mild-moderate i.e. they took 1-4 weeks to recover.

The period when the greatest percentages of players were injured was mid-season-April.

Over 60% of match play injuries occurred in the second half more so in dry conditions.

70% of injuries were to the lower limb.

Muscle strain was the most common injury. Hamstring injury topped the poll at 16.5 % followed by quadriceps strain or haematoma, then ankle, groin, and calf.

There was a 7.4% incidence of fracture, mainly to fingers and thumbs.

How does injured tissue in Hurling compare to other sports?

Injured tissue Hurling Ice Hockey Gaelic football UEFA Soccer Rugby Union
Muscle 42.2% 26% 42.6% 35% 44.7%
Tendon 6.9% 9.2% 7%
Ligament 15.2% 9.4% 13.2% 18%

Comparing hurling to other field sports

Incidence of injury per 1000 hours of training and per 1000 hours of match play

Sport Injury per 1000 hrs/ training Injury per 1000 hrs/ matchplay
Hurling 5.3 101.5
Gaelic football 5.5 61.2
UEFA soccer 4.1 27.5
Prof Rugby Union 2 91
Rugby League (Oz & NZ data) 270-405
Aussie Rules 25.7

Comparing hurling to other sports that use sticks

Sport Injury per 1000hrs/training Injury per 1000hrs/matchplay
Hurling 5.3 101.5
Elite Ice Hocky 1.1 11.7
Men’s Lacrosse 3.2 12.6
Shinty 2.7
Swedish Bandy 7.3

With the exception of Rugby League, hurlers are more susceptible to injury compared to other field sports. The incidence of injury is much higher than other sports that use sticks and researchers argue this could be related to larger playing field of hurling compared to ice hockey or lacrosse. The incidence of injury in training is similar to Gaelic football and soccer but the match play injury rate is much higher in hurling.

There is an argument that hurlers are less fit and have poorer strength and conditioning profiles. A study looking at the physiological profiles of elite hurlers reported a higher percentage body fat, lower speed endurance, lower estimated VO2max and lower abdominal endurance compared to elite soccer players. In comparison with Gaelic footballers, Hurlers showed lower speed endurance and reduced upper body strength.

However, hurling is more a skill-based than strength-based sport. By the age of 14 or 15 years, most hurlers have achieved the golden 10,000 hour expert rule. It is a sport where a small ball weighing 120 grams travels through the air at speeds of up to 160 km/hr and must be balanced on a stick while running at speed, caught and struck in the air while being tackled. Acknowledging it is a skill-based sport, it still has a disproportionate share of match injury, predominantly muscle strain not impact injuries. Perhaps if we improve the strength and conditioning profiles of our hurlers we may see a decrease in their injuries, prolonging their careers and maintaining their skill on the pitch in our unique national sport.

1. Murphy et al 2012 “Injury in elite county-level hurling: a prospective study” Br J Sports Med 2012;46:2 138-142 Published Online First: 19 October 2010 doi:10.1136/bjsm.2010.072132

2. McIntyre 2005 “A comparison of the physiological profiles of elite Gaelic footballers, hurlers, and soccer players” Br J Sports Med 2005;39:7 437-439 doi:10.1136/bjsm.2004.013631

3. Murphy et al 2012 “Incidence of Injury in Gaelic Football: A 4-Year Prospective Study” Am J Sports Med September 2012 vol. 40 no. 9 2113-2120

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