Michael Meehan and Enda McGinley lift lid on painkiller use in GAA

Former Galway and Tyrone inter-county footballers chat to us about their experiences

BY Raf Diallo 6 days ago, 20:36 6 Dec 2018

The issue of painkiller use in sport was a subject we returned to tonight after speaking to Brian O'Driscoll and Keith Wood about their experiences in rugby.

This time we looked at GAA with two former inter-county footballers, Michael Meehan of Galway and Tyrone's Enda McGinley, with the latter now a physio. 

Meehan discussed the instances when he ended up using painkillers, especially towards the latter end of his career.

"They definitely were part of what I needed to do in the latter stages to cope and deal with the injuries that I had and just to get out on the pitch as often as I needed to be able to participate at a fairly high level," said the former Galway inter-county footballer.

"It was very much tailored to the matches or the training load that was coming ahead of me and what I will say is the medics that I was involved with were very keen to stress that they were trying to manage it as well as possible and limit as much as possible the amount of difene and stuff like that that were taken."

He also explained that if a "straw poll" was taken around dressing rooms, it would be older players with "more miles on the clock" that would be more likely to use painkillers. 

"But I didn't see any huge evidence of over-the-top use in my experience," Meehan added.

Meanwhile, McGinley explained that team doctors had become established parts of backroom teams from the 1990s onwards. 

"At the start of my career - and it did change a wee bit during it - but at the start of the career, there was this sort of freedom where you could grab a sachet of anti-inflammatories and take them home and loads of boys at that stage would have been taking the odd anti-inflammatory. If they'd got any knock at all, they were taking a few anti-inflammatories," he said.

But over the years, there was a growing realisation that sustained use of anti-inflammatories had "knock on health effects".

He also feels the situation is different now for current players: "I'd imagine there's a wee bit more control of them within modern set-ups and there will be a long-term cost for that sort of approach to injury management during my own career."

McGinley also discussed the prevalence of pain-killing injections even at club level where in some cases player use them through most rounds of a Championship.

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