It was exactly two years ago today that Cameroon international Marc-Vivien Foe died in tragic circumstances during a FIFA Confederations Cup semi-final in France. FIFA's medical division will use the semi-final between Mexico and Argentina on 26 June 2005, dedicated to Foe's memory, as an opportunity to raise awareness of preventative care in sport. FIFA has been committed to sports medicine since the mid-70s, as football's world governing body regards the health of footballers as an utmost priority. Particular attention has been dedicated to preventative medicine through the foundation of F-Marc (FIFA Medical Assessment and Research Center) over ten years ago.
"In 1994 we were primarily concerned with general sports injuries and restrictions on performance in football with an emphasis on fitness, endurance and the musculoskeletal system. Internal and especially cardiological issues were still much lower on the agenda.There were no points of reference in that area at the time," explains FIFA medical coordinator Prof. Dr. Toni Graf-Baumann (Germany). However, the tragic death of Marc-Vivien Foé was not the initial catalyst for FIFA's intensive engagement with internal and cardiological prevention.
After a number of lower profile cases of sudden cardiac arrest in footballers, F-MARC commenced a series of seminars for team doctors on prevention and special cardiological examinations in 2000, directed by Dr. Michel D'Hooghe, Chairman of the FIFA Sports Medical Committee, FIFA Chief Medical Officer Prof. Dr. Jiri Dvorak and Prof. Dr. Toni Graf-Baumann. "These are issues for national associations and clubs, but since they are still not on the agenda even at many big clubs, we needed to take action," Graf-Baumann explained.
The first step for the F-MARC medical experts was to carefully analyse all previous known cases of sudden cardiac arrest in sportsmen and to discuss these with forensic doctors and sports cardiologists. Based upon the findings, preventative measures were developed which culminated in the opening of the first FIFA Medical Centre in Zürich on 3 May 2005.
This is open to all members of the football family and offers a specialised diagnostic and treatment service. Obtaining a second opinion in the case of certain illnesses and injuries plays a crucial role. "We hope that such examinations will enable us to identify symptoms which can have fatal consequences in football, such as sudden cardiac arrest as we tragically experienced with Marc-Vivien Foe," Graf-Baumann continued.
Furthermore, it was resolved that all players of the 32 teams which qualify for the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany must submit a certificate of cardiological health from the medical division of their national association. This will subsequently be inspected by independent specialists co-ordinated by F-MARC.
"The aim is to identify problems in advance, using special sports-cardiological diagnostics,"said Graf-Baumann, whose team also operates regular medical courses for all FIFA member associations as part of FIFA's newest development programme, FUTURO III. The programme will be further supported by further international "FIFA Medical Competence Centers."
FIFA's medical division is constantly committed to making new discoveries through research. Dr. Jiri Dvorak was in Oslo between 23 and 25 June 2005 for the first world congress for sports injury prevention as a speaker, also taking the opportunity to exchange his experiences with other experts in sports medical preventative care.
Besides prevention, F-MARC also plays a leading role in the long-term battle against doping. Last year alone, some 22,500 doping tests were performed worldwide by a network of 200 FIFA doctors.