After evaluating the expertise and quality of care provided to amateur and elite athletes by the University Hospital Centre (CHU) and the University of Liège (ULg), FIFA has conferred Medical Centre of Excellence status on both institutions. The chairman of the FIFA Medical Committee, Dr Michel D’Hooghe, officially awarded the prestigious certification to both centres on Wednesday, the only such institutions to be granted this recognition in the French-speaking community of Belgium.

After Roulers, Liège is the second Belgian centre to be accredited by FIFA and joins a select group of 47 such centres around the world located in places such as Doha, Clairefontaine, Lyons, Munich, Rome, São Paulo and New York, not forgetting the medical centre of FC Barcelona.

FIFA’s accreditation is for five years and is exclusive: no other centre in French-speaking Belgium will be able to claim such status in that period. FIFA conducted a thorough evaluation of the competencies at SportS2 and the Laboratory of Human Motion Analysis (LAMH) before deciding to include the Liège university institutions in its global network of medical centres of excellence.

SportS2, which provides multidisciplinary orthopaedic, rehabilitation and health services for athletes, gathers together doctors, researchers and paramedics under one roof at the CHU, specialising in sport and its pathologies, injury prevention, rehabilitation and maximising performance. The LAMH is an organisation belonging to the Faculties of Medicine and Applied Science at the University of Liège that studies human motion and its application in areas such as medicine, biomechanics, ergonomics and sport.

The evaluation met all of FIFA’s requirements in terms of the quality of care provided to footballers and athletes, excellence of the institutions’ teaching and research projects and partnerships established with elite sports clubs. Indeed, SportS2 is already working with Standard Liège, FC Seraing and FC Liège, while KRC Genk and KAS Eupen are also interested in benefiting from its services.

Coordinated by Prof. Jean-François Kaux, SportS2 combines expertise in the areas of physical medicine (Prof. Kaux), orthopaedic surgery (Prof. Philippe Gillet), the science of motor skills (Prof. Jean-Louis Croisier), physiotherapy (Prof. Bénédicte Forthomme) and the study of pneumology and allergies for stress tests (Prof. Thierry Bury), not to mention dietetics, podology, sports psychology, and many other fields.

"Joining this exclusive network of sports research centres of excellence is naturally a recognition of our expertise, but more than that, it’s an incentive for us to maintain our high global standards at the clinical and scientific level," said Prof. Kaux. "FIFA’s accreditation will give us more credibility with elite athletes in all sporting disciplines in the French-speaking community of Belgium, and will allow us to build up our partnerships with elite sports clubs, not just football clubs.

"It is also worth pointing out that our work with elite athletes benefits amateurs and people who play sport just for fun, who receive the same quality of care.”

Dr Michel D’Hooghe, chairman of the FIFA Medical Committee, spoke of how much football had changed in the 50 years that he had been following it. "On the medical side, the progress made has been incredible," he said. "It wasn’t so long ago that the only thing a manager could ask the club doctor was: ‘Can he play on Sunday?’ and depending on the reply, he was either a good ‘doc’ or a bad one.

"Today, there is a whole army of medical staff and the FIFA Medical Centres of Excellence are playing a big part in this evolution by investing in research and supporting new technologies. It’s an evolution from which everyone involved in the game should benefit."