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Donegal's Ryan McHugh poses for a portrait at the Philadelphia Museum of Art during the GAA GPA PwC All Stars tour of Philadelphia, PA in the USA. 
Donegal's Ryan McHugh poses for a portrait at the Philadelphia Museum of Art during the GAA GPA PwC All Stars tour of Philadelphia, PA in the USA. 

Ryan McHugh encourages concussion awareness


By John Harrington

Donegal footballer Ryan McHugh has praised the care he was given by Donegal team doctor Kevin Moran this year after suffering two concussions on duty with county and club.

Dr Moran, a consultant surgeon, is concussion expert on the GAA’s medical, scientific and welfare (MSW) committee and side-lined McHugh for eight weeks after he suffered a concussion early in Donegal's League campaign.

He then told McHugh to play no more football this year after the Kilcar man suffered another concussion in a challenge match against Dublin club St. Vincent’s last September.

Watching from the sidelines was frustrating for McHugh, but he credits Moran for putting his health first and believes players should always be protected in this way rather than rushed back too quickly from concussions.

“I suppose it's like everything, you can get better at everything and the more education there is out there, the better,” said McHugh, who is currently on the 2018 PwC All-Stars tour to Philadelphia.

“I think to be fair I didn't know a lot about it until I received it at the start of the year and I got a wee bit of education on it. I still don't know a huge amount about it.

"I put my hands in my doctor, Kevin Moran, he's actually well up in the GAA, so I put my full hands in him and to be fair we came, we've a great relationship so we do. He does what he does best.

“He was advising me and I think to be fair to Kevin, he wasn't looking at it from a Donegal or Kilcar point of view, he was looking at it to make sure that Ryan McHugh was going to be okay and going to be back, when he is fit to come back a better player.

“I know the first time I had it, I actually didn't get the symptoms and stuff until about two weeks later, so I didn't.

“So it was strange, it actually happened at training one night, I just felt ill and dizzy and stuff. I went to Kevin and Kevin pulled me out straight away.

“If Kevin wasn't there, I could have trained on. So definitely I think that the more education people have the better.”

Dr. Kevin Moran, Consultant Surgeon in Letterkenny University Hospital and Donegal GAA Team Doctor, in attendance at the 2016 National Concussion Symposium at Croke Park in Dublin.
Dr. Kevin Moran, Consultant Surgeon in Letterkenny University Hospital and Donegal GAA Team Doctor, in attendance at the 2016 National Concussion Symposium at Croke Park in Dublin.

McHugh puts his first concussion down to a series of heavy knocks he took in Donegal’s League fixtures against Dublin, Kildare, and Tyrone.

On each of those occasions there was no immediate symptoms of concussion, which highlights how insidious concussion can be and why it’s so important for players, managers, and team doctors to be well versed on the subject.

“It's a strange injury because looking at somebody you don't think there is anything wrong with them,” said McHugh.

"It was tough. After the time you have slight headaches and you know there is something wrong with yourself. After a week and a half you start to come round to yourself but the fear is if you pick up another one you can pick up serious injuries.

"I don't know a lot about it, I was taking the advice of Dr Kevin Moran and that's it.

"Rest, there's nothing you can really do with it. It's not like when you break a leg, you come back and try to build it up in the gym and different sort of stuff. It's just rest really all you can do, stay away from computers and that sort of stuff.

“That was what I was advised to do, difficult in this day and age but stuff like that. It is worrying but I didn't really think about it. Maybe Mum and Dad might have thought more about it but I was that engrossed in trying just to get back and get myself ready for the next Donegal match.”

Ryan McHugh pictured with his 2018 PwC Football All-Star. 
Ryan McHugh pictured with his 2018 PwC Football All-Star. 

McHugh’s modus operandi is to run hard at defences which potentially leaves him more open to taking heavy knocks.

He admits that he is now considering adapting his style of play to make him less susceptible to shipping punishment.

“Yeah, myself and Dad were actually on about that,” said McHugh. “I was reading up on Johnny Sexton and there was a lot written about him and head injuries and concussions.

“He had to change the style of the way he tackles. I don't know the basics of rugby but he said he changed the style of his tackle, the way he went in. He must have been going in with his head or something.

“So it is something I can look at in the future. It is easy to say it sitting around the table but when you are in the heat of a Championship battle and the ball is there to be won, it's another story.

“I think it is something to look at along with different aspects of my game.”

Go HERE for information on concussion care in the GAA

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