The UEFA Football Doctor Education Programme (FDEP) is a three-part programme teaching doctors from all 54 of UEFA's member associations the key skills of the modern football doctor. The programme adopts a blended learning approach, marrying face-to-face workshops where doctors learn and practise techniques with an online e-learning support platform containing instructional videos, tests of participants' knowledge and process guidelines for doctors to refer to at any time. An online forum is also in operation, allowing course participants to discuss and resolve key issues between themselves outside of the workshops.
The first of the three course workshops was held in Vienna in February 2012, covering the roles and responsibilities of the football doctor and emergency treatment of players. The second, covering the diagnosis and treatment of injuries, was held in Amsterdam in September 2013 and the third, on the topic of 'protecting the player', will be held in February 2015. All workshops are run by recognised international experts in the relevant fields, and members of the UEFA Medical Committee, many of whom have years of working as team doctors for their senior national teams.
One key aspect of the workshops is that participants are required to undergo a rigorous testing process at the end of each one to evaluate the skills and knowledge obtained. This evaluation is essential because as well as learning key skills, one of the unique aspects of the FDEP is that all participants are taught how to 'cascade' their own version of the course for doctors in their own country. It ensures that only those participants who demonstrate competence in the topic area are authorised to pass those skills and knowledge on to their peers at a cascaded workshop.
In order to maintain UEFA's high standards, all cascaded courses must follow the course manual and course structure used for UEFA's own workshop. UEFA offers both translation support for course materials and logistical support for practical sessions, with national associations able to borrow the medical kit required for the course from UEFA free of charge. Doctors are also allowed access to the FDEP's e-learning platform to further supplement their skills.
As regards the educational aspects of the cascaded courses, strict requirements are set by UEFA to ensure that all tutors have the medical specialisms required in order to teach other doctors. This is necessary in order for a cascaded course to be recognised by UEFA. Finally, in many cases cascaded courses are attended by doctors from the UEFA Medical Committee, who oversee the successful delivery of the course and ensure that it meets UEFA's high standards and preserves the integrity of the FDEP.
As a result of the cascading process, UEFA has now begun to create a network of skilled medical tutors disseminating the skills learned on the course across Europe's wider football community. This, combined with UEFA's Minimum Medical Requirements (MMRs), which require clubs and associations to provide emergency medical equipment and services at all UEFA matches, means that considerable steps have been taken to improve the medical support available to players.
Thus, as the cascading aspect of the FDEP develops in tandem with the MMR in future, UEFA's matches and competitions will be supported not only by a set of guaranteed medical services and standards, but also by increasing numbers of doctors trained to apply techniques and use equipment that could make the difference between a life being lost and a life being saved.
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