On 21 May 2012, at the Training Center of the Hungarian national team near Budapest, the nation’s implementation of the 11+ program was officially kicked off. In the presence of Hungary FA Vice-President Sandor Berzi and Professor Jiri Dvorak, FIFA’s Chief Medical Officer and Chairman of the FIFA Medical and Research Centre, the prevention program was presented to members of national media.
The ‘11+’ is the advanced version of F-MARC’s original ‘11’ which had succeeded in reducing injuries during a nationwide implementation in Switzerland between 2004 and 2008. A study held in Norway showed a reduction of the number of injuries by 30 to 50 per cent. Another study done in New Zealand proved that each dollar invested in the ‘11+’ save eight dollars in medical costs.
When I heard that the implementation of the 11+ could avoid 30 to 50 per cent of the injuries in football, I almost feinted.
“It’s a week of glory for Hungary. We host the FIFA Executive Committee meeting, the FIFA Congress, the FIFA Medical conference with physicians from all over the world. But what we do this afternoon is also very important: by launching the 11+ program, we are in perfect line with one of our key objectives, which is reinforcing grassroots activities”, underlined Sandor Berzi.
“In Switzerland, 5549 coaches were instructed to perform the 11+, it resulted with 12% per cent less match injuries and 25 per cent less training injuries. The national insurance saved CHF 10 million per year. We can do some research and show the results, but in the end what counts is the implementation of the program,” commented Professor Dvorak.
The ‘11+’ has already been implemented in various countries, such as Brazil, Germany, Italy, Japan and Spain. Recently crowned European champions FC Chelsea support the program too. In Hungary, the process began 18 months ago with the accreditation of the Uzsoki Hospital Department of Orthopaedics, together with Semmelweis University Heart Centre as a FIFA Medical Centre of Excellence. “Now what needs to be done is the education of the coaches, the assistants, the staff members, to make them understand that prevention is possible, and useful. Motivating coaches, like we managed in Spain with Vicente Del Bosque, is a key to success,” added Dvorak.
A long process
Dr. Panics Gergely, who is responsible for the implementation of the program for the Hungarian FA, was in line with Professor Dvorak: “thanks to the FIFA studies, we have a very clear idea of incident rates, we know the ten most frequent injuries, we know the risk factors. And we also know that the prevention program is efficient. So there is no doubt: we have to implement it.”
The implementation is a long process, approximately three to five years, as coaches and staff from all of a country’s clubs must be on board – no matter how small or big. But the long-term result is almost guaranteed. “That’s the strength of our program: its efficiency is based on evidence from studies. At the moment, there are approximately 600 million injuries per year, each costing on average 100 euros…It’s a huge amount, and it’s our duty to reduce this”, added Dvorak.
This is something Sandor Berzi would certainly not deny. The Hungary FA President had the final word on the matter. “When I heard that the implementation of the 11+ could avoid 30 to 50 per cent of the injuries in football, I almost feinted. First of all, that means the cost savings can be enormous and secondly, imagine the number of players who would not have to suffer the daily consequences of a bad injury. That’s why I’m particularly happy to endorse this program.”