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A survey of referee participation, training and injury in elite Gaelic games referees.BACKGROUND: Referees in Gaelic games are exposed to injury risk in match-play and training. Little is currently know about the degree of exposure or the prevalence of injury in this group. The aim of this study was to determine the time commitment to refereeing and training in elite-level Gaelic referees and to establish, for the first time, point and period (past 12 months) prevalence of Gaelic games injury in these officials. METHODS: A retrospective survey was posted to the complete list of 111 male referees who officiated in elite-level competition in Gaelic football and hurling at the end of the 2005 competition season. Data were summarised using percentages with 95% Confidence Intervals. RESULTS: The response rate was 80% (n = 89). Mean age was 42 +/- 6 years, ranging from 28-55 years. Forty eight percent were football referees, 25% were hurling referees and 27% refereed both football and hurling. Most referees (69%) officiated at 3-4 games weekly (range 1-6) and most (62%) trained 2-3 times per week (range 1-7). Fourteen percent (n = 12) were currently injured (95% CI 9-21%). Annual injury prevalence was 58% (95% CI 46 to 70%) for football, 50% (95% CI 33 to 67%) for hurling and 42% (95% CI 27 to 58%) for dual referee groups. Sixty percent of injuries were sustained while refereeing match play. The majority (83%, n = 40) were to the lower limb and the predominant (56%, n = 27) injury mechanism was running or sprinting. The most prevalent injuries were hamstring strain (n = 12, 25% of injuries) and calf strain (n = 9, 19% of injuries). Injury causing time off from refereeing was reported by 31% of all referees (95% CI 24 to 40%, n = 28), for a median duration of 3 weeks. CONCLUSION: Participation in official duties and training is high in elite Gaelic games referees, despite the amateur status of the sports. Gaelic games injury is common in the referee cohort, with lower limb injury predominating. These injuries have implications for both the referee and for organisation of the games.