An injury can cause you to be off the field and on the bench for weeks or even months at a time. Your professional & personal life can be affected due to time required off work/inability to complete tasks. As contact sports, Gaelic games have high incidences of injury. It is likely that all players will suffer some injury or physical set-back during their career. The older you are the more likely you are to get injured.

“I’ve been playing for around eight years and know that years of wear and tear have weakened both my knees — but especially my right one. It aches after training and I know that my hamstrings and other leg muscles aren’t as strong as they used to be despite all the conditioning I do. I’m always wary going in for a tackle, but in the last game I really went for it and ended up twisting awkwardly and heard the click and just knew it was my cartilage. Straight off! I’m thinking that’s me out for at least three months. The physio explains that I’ve got two menisci within each knee joint that are made from tough fibro cartilage — one of which is badly torn. He says the flap of torn cartilage has made the knee joint give way — which it just did. Later after X-rays, the physio tells me that there was previous damage to the cartilage and this big new tear means that physiotherapy alone won’t sort it. I will need a meniscectomy — surgical removal of the torn fibro cartilage. After surgery I will need at least six weeks physiotherapy before I am fit again. I feel dreadful and it’s not just physical pain.”

— Fictional Example; Part 1.

What You Might Feel If You Are Depressed

Depression is different from feeling down or sad. Depressed people can feel anxious, hopeless, negative and helpless and the feeling doesn’t pass

  • Depression can happen suddenly as a result of physical illness, unemployment, bereavement, family problems or other life changing events
  • Half of the people who have depression will only experience it once but for the other half it will happen again. The length of time that it takes to recover ranges from a few months to a year or more.
  • Living with depression is difficult for those who experience it and for their family, friends and colleagues, and it is sometimes difficult to recognise depression and to know what to do about it

What Are the Signs of Depression?

Depression shows up in many different ways. You don’t always realise what’s going on because your problems seem to be physical, not mental. You might tell yourself you are simply under the weather or feeling tired or this will pass when your injury improves.

Key symptoms of depression include:

  • Persistent sadness or low mood and/or
  • Loss of interest or pleasure and
  • Fatigue or low energy

Other symptoms include:

  • Waking up early, having difficulty sleeping, or sleeping more
  • Poor or increased appetite
  • Difficulty remembering things, poor concentration or indecisiveness
  • Blaming yourself or feeling guilty about things
  • Feeling low-spirited for much of the time, every day
  • Lacking self-confidence and self-esteem;
  • Being preoccupied with negative thoughts and
  • Self-harm or thoughts of suicide

Note: All symptoms listed above are taken from ICD10 used by clinicians to diagnose depression.

What You Can Do To Help Yourself:

  • Don’t try and manage depression on your own — talk to someone you trust about how you are feeling or call the GPA counselling line
  • Depression can make you feel worthless. Try to be aware of any negative thoughts you have about yourself and how they might be affecting how you see yourself and how you feel. If you can, try to think about how realistic these thoughts are and how you might change them into something more positive, and
  • Take action to find help. This will make you feel more in control — call the helpline, talk to a GPA counsellor or team doctor.

The good news is that most people recover from depression. The earlier they seek help the better the chances of early recovery. There are two main approaches to treating depression — non medical, ‘talking’ therapies and medical (antidepressants). Your doctor will advise on what antidepressants a player can safely and legally take but it may be that the doctor recommends therapy instead.

“The greatest quote is ‘pull yourself together’ or ‘shake yourself out of it’. That can be the worst thing that anyone can say to you, because you are fighting it yourself and the last thing you need is somebody putting you down — you are feeling bad enough as it is. You never think you are going to get out of it. My mother and sister have suffered from it, so they are a great help, but trying to actually explain to them I had depression was one of the hardest things I had to do.”

— Neil Lennon. Former Celtic manager and Captain. 

“I didn’t recover as quickly from the operation as I hoped. There were complications and the knee didn’t heal. I got aches and pains in the other knee because of the extra strain it was taking. I had to rest for 3 weeks before the physio could start. My life has always been sport, training, playing, eating, sleeping — always being part of it. I’m not good at living without the discipline of training and watching myself." 

“Now I go for physio but it hurts like hell and recovery is slow. I’m grumpy and frustrated, I snap at my partner and those around me. I feel tired all the time but can’t sleep at night. Sometimes I go to bed at random times. Work is also suffering as I have no motivation. Then I’m up half the night watching television and eating junk food. I’m eating too much and I’m getting fat. I feel out of sync with my family and with my life. I don’t feel motivated and I’m in almost constant physical pain from the knee and elsewhere, odd niggles and twinges. I’ve never felt so low. I’m panicky about the future and have black thoughts — which I can’t talk about. I don’t know what to do and I feel alone with it.”

— Fictional Example; Part 2.

“One day, my partner came home and found me sitting in the dark with the curtains drawn in the middle of the day. She called the doctor there and then and I was seen the same day. We finally talked about how bad things have been. It was a relief to finally let it all out. The doctor said he thought I was severely depressed and prescribed some mild sleeping pills to get my sleep pattern back. He referred me for some counselling — explaining that it would be a chance to talk about all the worries I’ve got about playing again and about the future. He encouraged me to start trying to take control of my daily life again — to eat better, to exercise gently, make sure I was concentrating on work or keeping myself busy during the day, maybe consider doing an up-skilling course." 

“I felt better because I had a plan again. I followed the doctor’s advice and started to feel better and this feeling improved when I started training again. Talking to a therapist helped me to understand better that the injury had sparked off fears and anxiety I already held about my future. The therapist encouraged me to start thinking about life after my sporting career ended and how I might prepare for it. I played my first match for the team after three months absence. I never told my team mates what happened but I do talk to my partner and I still see a therapist. Finally I’m looking ahead and making plans for a life off the pitch.”

— Fictional Example; Part 3.