Back Pain in Gaelic Games – why does it happen & what should be done?


The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) organizes Gaelic games, the two most prominent games being Gaelic football and hurling. Back pain is not uncommon among the athletes, affecting approximately 2.5% to experience back pain if they work in jobs that require periods of physical inactivity.

In general, people who play sports are more likely to miss work, an effective short-term recovery is essential.

Causes of Back Pain

Back pain has many potential causes. Some of the most common causes include disc bulges, disc degeneration, and disc protrusions. Health care professionals more often see these changes in the lower levels of the spine in athletes than in the general population. In about 5-10% of cases, these changes are associated with significant nerve damage. When nerve damage results in symptoms such as numbness, weakness, or pain in the leg, the damage may be associated with a prolapsed disc.

In as many as 90% of back pain cases, the pain is difficult to as non-specific low back pain, are often the result of soft tissue damage. Soft tissue damage can include overland, sprains, or strains of the muscles and/or joints that support the spine at the lower back.

Injuries in the Gaelic Games

GAA athletes who are at increased risk for injury fall into back pain.

What Can Be Done?

Conditioning together, the athlete and the health care team can created an individualised training plan that increases strength and movement control.

Adding toward thought processes that aid in speeding recovery rather than hindering it.


Back pain is relatively common in athletes, but in many cases it can be treated successfully. For the most successful and efficient outcome in an athlete’s short-term recovery, the health care provider must accurately diagnose and treat the player’s sympto account the player’s lifestyle, work load, movement patterns, and stress levels can help minimise the risk of injury as well as aid in recovery if injuries do occur.


In this instance, an athlete was originally diagnosed with minor quadriceps muscle strain and was treated for four weeks, with unsatisfactory results. When he came to our clinic, the muscle was not healing, and the patients’ muscle tissue had already begun to atrophy.

Upon examination using MSUS, we discovered that he had a full muscle thickness tear that had been overlooked by his previous provider. To mitigate damage and promote healing, surgery should have been performed immediately after the injury occurred. Because of misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment, the patient now has permanent damage that cannot be corrected.

The most important advantage of Ultrasound over MRI imaging is its ability to zero in on the symptomatic region and obtain imaging, with active participation and feedback from the patient. Using dynamic MSUS, we can see what happens when patients contract their muscles, something that cannot be done with MRI. From a diagnostic perspective, this interaction is invaluable.

Dynamic ultrasonography examination demonstrating
the full thickness tear and already occurring muscle atrophy
due to misdiagnosis and not referring the patient
to proper diagnostic workup

Demonstration of how very small muscle defect is made and revealed
to be a complete tear with muscle contraction
under diagnostic sonography (not possible with MRI)


Complete tear of rectus femoris
with large hematoma (blood)


Separation of muscle ends due to tear elicited
on dynamic sonography examination

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