‘Return to Play’ was the title of the 25th International Conference of Sports Rehabilitation and Traumatology which took place between 9 and 11 April 2016 at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Center in London. Over 2,000 participants attended including doctors, and physiotherapists from 89 countries.

The programme covered all aspects of ‘Return to Play’ after a players’ recovery from injury. It is a complex situation. Doctors along with the player and the coach have to decide the appropriate time, while keeping in mind the safety and health of players.

Relating to the prevention of injuries, it was clearly stated that the support, understanding and collaboration of coaches is essential to implement preventative measures based upon the scientific evidence to reduce injuries at all levels of play for male, females and children.

“The conference was a complete success, demonstrating the need of continuous education for doctors around the world dealing with footballers and being actively involved as team physicians” was Professor Jiri Dvorak’s opinion of a fruitful three days.

During the opening session chaired by Dr Michel D’Hooghe and Dr Stefano Della Villa, Professor Dvorak presented the FIFA/F-MARC philosophy on prevention, the role of the team doctor in relation to “Return to Play” and stressed the 11 most important duties for the team doctor as well as the “11 for coaches”.

The large international audience was the ideal platform for F-MARC and Dr Mark Fulcher to present the FIFA Diploma in Football Medicine which was launched in February 2016 which is free-of-charge, e-learning tool for doctors, physiotherapists and paramedics. Close to 5,500 professionals have registered for the diploma. Following Dr Fulcher’s presentation a further 1,000 registered. Dr D’Hooghe applauded the authors and considers the Diploma as one of the most important achievements during his time as Chairman of the FIFA Medical Committee.

Along with the scientific programme, a number of practical workshops took place which included the CPR 11 (Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation 11) to manage sudden cardiac arrest. This is an initiative of Fundacion Mapfre and F-MARC under the leadership of Dr Luis Serratosa from the Ripoll y de Prado Sport Clinic, the FIFA Medical Centre of Excellence in Murcia and Prof Efraim Kramer from South Africa.

A special workshop took place under the leadership of Dr Mario Bizzini which highlighted that following FIFA’s 11+ for children resulted in a 50 per cent reduction of injuries among those playing the game – a fact backed up by large prospective research studies.

A session was dedicated to concussion and head injuries. Following the injury surveillance programme during all FIFA competitions, one concussion occurs within 20 games or 1.65 concussions per 1,000 playing hours. Following the newest epidemiological study carried out in Switzerland, Czech Republic, Netherlands and Germany, concussion amongst children (9-12 years old) is extremely rare, while a concussion when heading a ball in children occurs once every 300,000 hours of football exposure (match and training).

The newest diagnostically and therapeutic procedures were presented based upon the experience of the three major centres: The Swiss Concussion Center at the Schulthess Clinic, the Institute of Neurology in Queens Square, London and the Concussion Center at the Pittsburg University, USA.

A discussion was presented to the audience regarding the three minute interruption to the game by a referee following a head injury. This interruption allows time for the doctor to assess the player on the pitch, allowing him the possibility to decide whether the player should return to play or not. The doctor may perform additional testing on the sidelines, the dressing room and/or appropriate medical facilities if required.

F-MARC took the opportunity in the presence of all bar one of the 49 Directors of the FIFA Medical Centres and Clinics of Excellence to organise a special meeting to discuss current research activities in order to harness their research facilities in order to present prospective studies and consequently improve the medical care of the football players.

The following subjects were identified and will be discussed next year.

• Implementation of the FIFA 11+injury prevention programme and the challenges in the different countries

• Prospective monitoring of head and neck injuries including concussion in clubs football, under the responsibility of the country’s dedicated centre

• Artificial Turf: analysis of injuries and possible side effects

• Implementation and challenges of the CPR 11

• Dissemination of the “FIFA Diploma in Football Medicine” amongst medical societies around the world and the doctors who care for 300 million licensed football players – in order to improve health care and prevent injuries.

The next and 26th International Conference on Sports Rehabilitation and Traumatology will take place at Camp Nou in Barcelona, in May 2017 with the main topic being “The future of Football Medicine”.