Ireland's ex-rugby team doctor on reason why GAA is seeing 392% increase in hip surgeries

Eanna Falvey chats to Off The Ball about the reasons behind the figures

World Cup, Jonathan Sexton, Eanna Falvey

Ireland’s Jonathan Sexton injured with Dr Eanna Falvey at the 2015 World Cup ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Former Irish rugby team doctor Eanna Falvey joined Off The Ball on tonight's show to talk about the work he's done on the increase in hip surgeries in Ireland.

The research based on GAA insurance figures shows that there has been a 392% increase in hips surgeries in the GAA between 2007 and 2014.

"There are a couple of factors involved. First of all, there is a surgical approach available for it. I first came across the condition in '06 before I worked in Australia and I was actually consulting on an inter-county hurler and at the time this was diagnosed there was no surgeon available to do the surgery at that time. Basically with training modification, the guy played on for another five or six years and it wasn't a major issue," Falvey explained.

"When I came back [to Ireland], there were a number of surgeons available to do it. But the actual incidence have really rocketed since then and I think probably we're diagnosing it more, we're more aware of it and then we have an outlet for the treatment. All of those have conspired. But the figures in Ireland would mirror figures in the States and they tend to cluster where you have surgery available." 

Falvey cited a Dutch study as another factor which showed that "the earlier you're involved in academy training at a professional soccer club, the more likely you were to have the bone changes in hip shape that we see in this problem".

From what he has seen in his practice on a regular basis, "adolescent kids from 13 to 17 in many sports in Ireland - particularly the GAA - are playing with multiple teams. They're becoming overloaded and then the result of that is what we're seeing in an adult population afterwards". 

Falvey warned that the evidence is "far from conclusive" when it comes to suggestions that arthritis can be developed if an individual does not take a surgical approach.