Spain coach Vicente del Bosque and players David Villa and Sergio Ramos underlined the growing importance of medical care in football at the sixth UEFA Medical Symposium in Madrid.
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The importance of medical care to players and coaches was a key theme as the sixth UEFA Medical Symposium concluded in Madrid, with stars of the Spanish national team joining the medical experts and doctors gathered from across Europe in the Spanish capital.
Spain coach Vicente del Bosque was accompanied by players David Villa and Sergio Ramos in a special round-table discussion, in which all three stressed the growing importance of medical needs in football. "I think through my career, medical staff have taken on an increasingly important role," said Ramos.
"What we obviously want to do is avoid injury, but because of the quality of the staff, they really understand footballers and what they need, and because of that quality I have managed to avoid serious injury. But when I do get injured, it is really important that someone is there to give you the best advice and support."
The title of the symposium was Evolution and, underlining the changes in football medicine and treatment, Del Bosque said: "Being a football doctor is a really specialist task now. The doctor who works with us is in constant contact and keeps us up-to-date with all the players on a daily basis. It didn't used to be like that."
Villa, who suffered a broken leg in November 2011 that kept him sidelined for eight months, added: "It is a very important role at the club. There is daily contact and monitoring. Doctors don't only deal with injuries but also with prevention, so the role is key. There's been a huge change, particularly in helping clubs get more medical resources, more attention for players. You used to see them one day a week, now there's constant contact. You might see them more than your coach!"
Chief medical officer at the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), Dr Helena Herrero, talked about how team medical care has progressed in Spain. She noted the change in emphasis from simply treating injuries sustained while playing to achieving high performance through the prevention of problems before they occur, as well as the need for the modern-day football medic to continuously keep abreast of the latest techniques and advances.
The evolution of the treatment of injuries was another topic spotlighted, with detailed presentations from Dr Henrique Jones of the UEFA Medical Committee on the history and surgical treatment of ACL injuries, the RFEF's Dr Tomás Fernández Jaén on treating muscle and tendon injuries, Philippe Neyret on cartilage problems, and Dr Ian Beasley from the English Football Association (FA) on rehabilitation and deciding when players can return to play.
The theme of evolution continued with another round-table chat, this time moderated by the vice-chairman of the UEFA Medical Committee, Professor Jan Ekstrand, about steps forward in the treatment of injuries. Items raised included the value of communication and respect between doctors and coaches, the rising influence of imaging in diagnosis, rehabilitation times from knee injuries, and the question of recurring injuries.
On-pitch emergencies are one subject that has received heightened attention of late, and this was an area that UEFA Medical Committee vice-chairman Professor Stewart Hillis and Dr Jonny Gordon – course director of the first UEFA Football Doctor Education Programme workshop on this matter – explored with insightful presentations. The ever-expanding focus on women's and youth football also came under review by Dr Markus Waldén and Dr Luis Serratosa, the latter having worked at Real Madrid CF from 2001 to 2013.
The symposium finished with a round-table discussion involving a group of speakers from the past three days and covering players' health, fitness and welfare in light of the game's rapid evolution in recent years.