Olympic players' health in order
© FIFA.com

At the Olympic football competition the incidence of injuries and doping control test results followed the results observed by the FIFA Medical Commission during the last decade. However, the real challenge to the players' health in Beijing was beyond human influence: extreme heat.

The injury recording system developed by the FIFA Medical Assessment and Research Centre F-MARC is since 10 years implemented in all FIFA competitions, providing information on football injuries in order to make prevention more effective. Based on this vast experience, F-MARC and FIFA now supported the IOC in the adoption of this system for the multi-sport event in Beijing, and also analysed the collected data. A preliminary analysis of the football injury recordings by Dr Astrid Junge, Head of F-MARC, showed similar results as at previous Olympic competitions. In women, 2.1 injuries per match were reported and slightly fewer (1.8) in men, mainly due to a lower incidence of mild injuries. Both genders however had comparable rates when only time-loss, indicating more severe, injuries were considered. As generally observed in football, the most frequent injury types were contusions and sprains.

FIFA medical officers supervised and assisted in the sample collection performed by the BOCOG doping control officers at all football matches. Following the routine FIFA procedure, two players per team per match were drawn by lot and had to provide urine samples. In the semi-finals and bronze medal matches, four players were selected per team, and in the final all these players also had to provide blood samples. The 264 urine and 16 blood samples analysed in the WADA-accredited laboratory in Beijing showed all negative results, once more confirming the success of FIFA in keeping the game doping-free.

While these findings brought no surprise for Prof. Jiri Dvorak, FIFA Chief Medical Officer, he had well anticipated that the real health risk for players at this competition was going to be extreme heat. With the final match being played at noon at the National Stadium, precautions had therefore been taken in advance. Medical staff at the sidelines was increased, and cooling devices were provided near the bench and in the locker rooms. With dry air temperatures up to 42 Celsius and Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (an index additionally considering humidity and wind) indicating moderate to high risk as early as 10.00 am, cooling breaks were scheduled at minute 30 and 75 when the risk of heat exhaustion during matches is at its highest. This first ever official intermission of a football match marks another milestone in the continuous effort of FIFA to protect the health of players.