FIFA held its first ever Medical Conference this weekend in Zurich, with more than 470 leading administrators and physicians from FIFA member associations across the globe. The event aimed to motivate decision-makers to integrate the FIFA global mission for the safety and health of football players into their national programmes.
FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter, who opened and closed the conference, urged the delegates to seek to implement the knowledge shared by FIFA's Medical Assessment and Research Centre (F-MARC) and FIFA's Medical Committee to not only prevent injuries in football but also make efforts to generate healthy communities. FIFA's "Football for Health" programme goes far beyond the football pitch and pursues goals such as the prevention of communicable and non-communicable diseases that ravage communities in developing nations.
The prevention of sudden cardiac death through pre-competition medical assessments, age determination of players, new strategies in the fight against doping, playing football at high altitude, as well as the impact of fasting on playing were all among the key discussion topics of the first day.
The latest data and conclusions in these areas were extensively presented and discussed under the guidance of Dr. Michel D'Hooghe (Chairman of the FIFA Medical Committee and FIFA Executive Committee member) and Prof. Jiri Dvorak (FIFA Chief Medical Officer and Chairman of F-MARC). There was strong support among the audience to implement regular medical assessments of individual players within national programmes.
An especially interesting and entertaining session was dedicated to the prevention of non-contact injuries. German international Birgit Prinz as well as former international football stars Pavel Nedved (Czech Republic) and Lucas Radebe (South Africa) demonstrated "The 11+", F-MARC's successful injury prevention programme. This programme has been proven to reduce serious contact injuries by over 30%, as well as preventing overuse injuries. This has the potential to save millions of dollars in healthcare costs.
FIFA referee Martin Hansson (Sweden) also explained the importance of the role of referees in protecting players, particularly young players on the field.
The second day of the conference saw presentations and discussions in a plenary session for executives on how to implement the new initiatives. Representatives from over 170 countries had a fruitful open forum with FIFA Medical Committee and F-MARC members.
Four practical workshops reinforced the focus of the meeting, concentrating on: pre-competition medical assessment; "The 11+ - a complete warm-up to prevent injuries"; anti-doping and football emergency medicine.