UEFA's co-operation with European club doctors was highlighted at the inaugural UEFA Elite Club Medical Forum last week. Such events also give European football's governing body the chance to show its recognition of the invaluable exchanges that are taking place between UEFA and doctors working in football.
The forum in Nyon brought together doctors from Europe's leading clubs for discussions on the myriad changes in their role over the years, and highlighted the work being undertaken within an ongoing UEFA injury study, directed from UEFA's side by Prof Jan Ekstrand, the UEFA Medical Committee's second vice-chairman. UEFA and top European clubs are exchanging medical information and statistics for the mutual benefit of both parties.
In addition, UEFA and the club doctors also discussed anti-doping issues, and came up with a host of interesting proposals that UEFA will examine as part of its future work in the crucial medical sector. "It was a very important meeting, because we brought together the medical practitioners who work in football," said Michel D'Hooghe, in Nyon to chair this week's meeting of the UEFA Medical Committee. "These are people who are not just dealing with dossiers – they're dealing with ankles and knees.
"It was also an interesting meeting because we looked at the injury study being carried out under the auspices of Jan Ekstrand, and we saw statistics that were astonishing," continued Dr D'Hooghe. "There were some good comments, and we received some good advice. I think it was an experience that certainly should be renewed."
Impact on success
One idea that was brought up at the meeting was the presence of doctors at the highest club management levels. Dr D'Hooghe is in an ideal place to agree with this, as he is now president of well-renowned Belgian club Club Brugge KV after serving as club doctor. "Whether we like it or not, medical elements have become extremely important – notably with regard to sporting success ... if a club is challenging at the top of the table and then falls to ninth place, we see from the statistics compiled by Jan Ekstrand that injuries are the first criteria."
Dr Hooghe smiles when he reflects on the changing role of the doctor vis-à-vis coaches in particular. "I always tell the story that when I began in 1972, I received one extremely scientific question from my coach every week – can he play next Sunday? And I was also judged on this. When the player played, I was a good doctor, when he didn't play, I was a bad doctor.
Centre of a team
"Things have indeed changed and developed in a number of areas," he added. "We began talking about traumatology, orthopedics, surgery, physiology, pharmacology, psychology ... then we starting discussing hygiene and diet, and with the internationalisation of football, we began talking about jet-lag, altitude and so on. Sports medicine has become teamwork. The club doctor who was once an 'individualist', has become the cohesive centre of a team."
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