The first FUTURO III-course in football medicine inspired both faculty and participants and initiated immediate action on the development of a network of football medicine physicians in Africa. "We urgently need to improve the standard of football medicine in Africa", demanded Prof. Jiri Dvorak, MD, FIFA Chief Medical Officer and Chairman of the FIFA Medical Assessment and Research Centre F-MARC, at the opening ceremony. "The knowledge and skills you have accumulated during this course now need to be multiplied in order to reach each player in the continent. We guarantee to you the full support of FIFA in spreading the message."
Whereas Prof. Dvorak, coming from FIFA's home country, Switzerland, illustrated the task laying ahead of the course participants with the image of a snowball transforming into an avalanche, Mr. Kirsten Nematandani, member of the executive committee of SAFA, used the one of a candle lighting thousands other candles, thereby bringing light to the whole continent.
For five days, the 21 physicians from nine African countries learned the ABCs of football medicine from assessment of performance, doping control, prevention of injuries to sudden cardiac death and training issues. Infections, asthma and travel medicine were also covered insofar as they are related to football. It became very clear that the football medicine doctor needs to be a generalist knowing the basics of all relevant health issues as well as a skilled specialist in all play related matters.
Enthusiasm of doctors needs support of member associations
Initially, F-MARC had conducted studies to establish an epidemiological database on injuries in football. Ever since, based on these data, the FIFA Sports Medical Committee and F-MARC considerably contributed to the prevention of injuries and other health hazards for the player. For twelve years now, the slogan "Medicine for football" stands for improving the game as well as the protection of health of those playing it.
"The worldwide FIFA network of football physicians dedicated to the cause welcomes you and expects you to actively participate in our ongoing efforts", said. Prof. Dvorak. "But it goes without saying that we need not only manpower, but also a supportive organisation and adequate infrastructure." The discussions with participants during the course once more showed that, in a considerable number of countries, the awareness of the importance of football medicine still needs to be raised.
Excellent prospects for 2010 - and beyond
The dedication and motivation of all physicians deeply impressed the FIFA faculty. All participants developed an individual education programme for their home country at the end of the course. While their concepts and ideas were utterly convincing, the obstacles became obvious. As stressed by Yacine Zerguini, MD, FIFA Sports Medical Committee member, it was unanimously agreed that a respected sports medical committee with adequate executive powers should become an indispensable precondition for each member association of FIFA.
Most convincing was the performance of Sello Montaug, MD, South Africa, who supported SAFA in the organisation. His lectures on disaster management and a national education programme for football medicine to be conducted by the Wits centre of exercise science & sports medicine, University of Witwatersrand, demonstrated almost identical concepts and proposed most excellent prospects for the local medical services during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.
"I came to this course with great expectations, but also some uncertainty", admitted Prof. Lars Peterson, FIFA Sports Medical Committee member and renowned international knee expert. "But now I am convinced that, with FIFA's support, people as committed as you can make the change for the better."