ACL injuries in GAA players

posted in: GAA, Sports' Injuries | 0

ACL injuries in GAA players and how you can train to prevent knee injuries.

The dreaded curse of Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injuries is potentially around the corner for any GAA player.

In the very recent past we have seen Colm Cooper ACL injury and Eoghan O’Gara struck down with ACL injuries,

while Cork’s Colm O’Neill has also been very unfortunate with repeated ACL issues.

Colm Cooper ACL injury

Of course a lot of these ACL injuries are down to just being unlucky, but there are some things you can do to help reduce your chances of falling foul of this horrific injury.

While studies in the United States have shown a general increase in this injury in sport,  there must be more to it than just luck.

A big problem is that athletes are not being shown how to squat, run, land and basically move correctly. Another issue, especially for young GAA athletes is they are simply being asked to play too many games. Even as we get older there is loads of training in running and maybe tactics but not enough strength work.

While this may not be the issue for our top GAA stars who are getting the best training advice and medical treatment available, it is an issue leading to more injuries in general and more ACL injuries in lower league players.

Prevention is always better than cure so while I am not a physio/ rehab expert I will look at the training side of things to help try to prevent it happening to you.

You want to be working all the muscles around the knee as much as possible.

ACL injuries Vivomed
ACL injuries

ACL injuries have actually been shown to be higher in female athletes. So why do women have an increased risk of ACL injury? Some studies suggest that while they are doing a lot of strength training similar to male athletes, they have and injury rate between 2 and 10 times higher than male athletes. The reasons for the different rates of injury in men and women are not entirely clear, but some theories include differences in anatomy, knee alignment, ligament laxity, muscle strength, and conditioning.

There are various stories about Kieran Mc Geeney’s ACL injuries while he was playing with Armagh but due to the strength he had built up around it he was able to continue on.

Doing free weight movements like Barbell Squats will help and personally I would be a big fan of 1 leg movements.

Bulgarian Split Squats are a great exercise for isolating each leg and being able to really target the stabilisers and strengthen around the knee.

While Leg extensions machine can help to target the area as well, you would want to balance that with free moving exercises. However, some simple exercises using balance boards or wobble boards can help strengthen the muscles around the knee and ankles.

The glutes, core and hips are also very important. Just like anything in the body, there is rarely just one muscle group to look at. So that’s why free weights work better to incorporate more muscle groups.

Hip/ glutes Bridges, dead lifts, planks etc. all should be incorporated into the training program.

Another important aspect is the ability to “Land Soft”

The ability to jump is of course very important for a GAA player but the ability to land is usually forgotten about. When doing various jumps at our club training you do see players land in a variety of ways that I don’t like looking at. You should be trying to balance the load across both feet and have the knees bent and loose.

This will help ingrain the habit of landing soft when you jump into the air.

Colm Coopers ACL rehab

A lot of these injuries can happen from landing totally on one side with the leg being straight or “Locked” which is never going to end well.

Of course when all is said and done there has to be an element of luck to it as well. But at least by following these few simple steps it will help to bring your chances of  ACL injuries well down.

And that’s about the best anyone can do.

Darragh Holland

Sports and Exercise Science Degree (Hons)

Certified Personal Trainer

For more information like this be sure to sign up to our emails at and follow our Facebook page


Please like & share:

Leave a Reply