The GAA today announced details of the forthcoming national roll-out of the compulsory wearing of mouthguards in all underage grades up to and including minor for Gaelic football matches and practice sessions from January 1 2013.
In addition, from January 1 2014, this rule will apply to all players at all age grades.
The move to make the wearing of mouthguards obligatory reiterates the Association’s long-term commitment to player welfare.
Research figures indicate that Ireland has one of the highest rates of sport-related oral injuries in the EU, with one third of all adult dental injuries being sports-related. In many sports such as rugby and hockey, the wearing of gumshields is the norm with nearly all Clubs adhering strictly to a ‘no gumshield – no game’ rule.
Significantly, if a player refuses to comply he can be sent-off and players will not be covered under the GAA Player Injury Scheme if they are not wearing a mouthguard.
This introduction was welcomed by Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael Liam Ó Néill.
He stated “I think the importance of the initiative is signified by the fact that 98 per cent of delegates voted in favour of the proposal to make mouthguards compulsory at this year’s Annual Congress.
“The player is the most important thing; I think that any initiative that creates a safer playing environment for our players will contribute to increased participation in our games. The enforcement of this rule change is another indication that the Association is taking a proactive approach to player welfare.”
GPA Chief Executive Dessie Farrell added: “The provision of mouthguards for county footballers was a key part of the GPA’s Health and Wellbeing Progamme and we welcome moves to make the wearing of the guards compulsory; it is an extremely important step for player welfare and brings our games into line with best practice in other codes.”
The GAA’s Medical, Scientific & Welfare Committee acknowledge that the use of a properly fitted mouthguard is the best available protective device for reducing the incidence and severity of sports-related dental injuries and was centrally involved in ensuring the introduction of compulsory mouthguards in Gaelic Football.
Chairman of the Committee, Ger Ryan said: “The Committee has been hands-on in their promotion of the initiative. Best practice guidelines and advice have been circulated to aid the transition for Clubs, players and parents.”
He highlighted that the Committee were committed to managing the transition for the GAA and also acknowledged the extensive work undertaken by the previous Committee in devising Association policy in the area and paid particular thanks to Mr. Cliff Beirne.
Today also marked the launch of the official OPRO GAA/GPA ‘stock’ and ‘boil and bite’ mouthguards, a joint commercial venture on the part of the GAA and GPA. The mouthguards will range in price from €8 to €33 and will be available for purchasing through local retailers: SuperValu, Centra, Lifestyle and Elverys.
Furthermore, GAA Clubs can order mouthguards directly from O’Neills Sports.
It is accepted that custom-fitted mouthguards offer the best protection and Official Opro custom fitted mouthguards will be available from a network of dentists.
Donegal’s All-Ireland Winning Captain and GAA/GPA Mouthguard Ambassador, Michael Murphy said: “It’s fantastic to see that affordable official OPRO GAA/GPA mouthguards are available to purchase,” and he added that mouthguards are now an essential piece of kit and encouraged all young players to wear them.
Fellow All-Ireland Football finalist and Mayo Gaelic Footballer, Alan Dillon supported these sentiments and added that the Official GAA/GPA range of mouthguards were extremely comfortable to wear.
OPRO Director Anthony Lovat said: “We are delighted to be working with the GAA and GPA on what is a most important initiative.
“Anything that offers enhanced safety and well being to your players is to be welcomed and we look forward to providing our products to GAA members across and Ireland and further afield.”
O’Neills have been confirmed as official OPRO mouthguard distributor on behalf of the GAA/GPA and the mouthguards can be purchased from Supervalu, Centra, Lifestyle, Elverys and O’Neills.