Football doctor programme’s vital role in football medicine

UEFA’s Football Doctor Education Programme (FDEP) continues its pioneering work in training doctors and experts in the increasingly vital area of football medicine.

A practical session in Portugal
A practical session in Portugal ©FPF

UEFA’s Football Doctor Education Programme (FDEP) has been continuing its crucial task of educating doctors and experts in the increasingly vital area of football medicine.

In a series of workshops held over recent months, events covering a variety of topics have been taking place across Europe. As a result, the football medical community has been receiving essential advice and practical training in a sector that has evolved into one of the most important elements of the modern-day game.

Training in Slovenia
Training in Slovenia©NZS

Each of UEFA’s 55 member associations must nominate one doctor to attend the UEFA FDEP workshops. The doctors are trained in various skills that the modern football doctor must master. These include cardiac reanimation, safe extrication from the pitch, diagnosis of knee or ankle injuries, or even basic information on psychology and nutrition in football.

The FDEP operates a ‘cascading’ process to ensure that information is transmitted beyond the workshops to doctors and medical experts across the continent. Consequently, doctors who attend FDEP events are also trained on their teaching skills. Experts who attend each workshop share their information on how to run practical scenarios and case studies, so that the doctors in attendance can replicate the same workshop at national level.

Each workshop features a practical examination to test the doctors’ knowledge of what they have learned. All doctors who successfully pass the exam are then allowed and encouraged to organise the same workshop at national level. UEFA provides them with all the course curriculum – presentations, case studies, examinations, certificate templates, etc. – to enable them to organise their national workshops. Some national associations even translate the entire course content to run national courses in their native language.

Belgium has staged a national FDEP workshop
Belgium has staged a national FDEP workshop©URBSFA-KBVB

This past season, UEFA is delighted to see that 16 associations have ‘cascaded’ the workshops at national level. Eleven of them cascaded the workshop dealing with trauma and medical emergencies; three cascaded the workshop on injuries and diagnosis in football; and three cascaded the workshop centring on generic topics on player protection. North Macedonia cascaded the injury/diagnosis and player protection workshops.

European associations and the FDEP
The Royal Netherlands Football Association (KNVB) organised the trauma/medical emergencies workshop for the seventh time in Zeist last October. Dr Edwin Goedhart, who has attended all the UEFA FDEP workshops, explained that “It is essential to cooperate with national team physicians on a regular basis. Organising these regular cascaded workshops is the perfect platform for networking, exchange of information and training of skills.”

The Georgian Football Federation (GFF) organised its second trauma/medical emergency workshop at the David Petriashvili Stadium in Tbilisi last year. The association has now implemented a regular cycle, with the workshop being run annually with the financial support of the GFF and the Georgian Football Development Foundation.

Austria also ran its second truauma/medical emergency workshop, led by Dr Richard Eggenhofer, with an impressive 42 doctors attending the event. Participants agreed that the networking aspect of the meeting formed an essential part of such an event.

The Czech Republic’s third trauma/medical emergency workshop, under the leadership of Dr Cechal, took place at the national association’s annual health commission. The conference was covered by national TV

The Swedish Football Association (SvFF) organised an injuries/football diagnosis workshop at the start of this year, which was attended by 25 doctors, most of whom had been present at a trauma/medical emergency workshop the previous year. All doctors successfully passed the workshop, and are now preparing for the player protection workshop, which will be organised next January.

Croatia have 'cascaded' all three FDEP workshops
Croatia have 'cascaded' all three FDEP workshops©HNS

Croatia, North Macedonia, Slovakia and Spain are currently the only four associations that have cascaded all three FDEP workshops. Croatia organised its first player protection workshop this year. Dr Zoran Bahtijarević, who led the course, emphasised that “Medical education is a great success among sports doctors, and remains unquestionably important and necessary.” Croatia is planning to organise courses on a yearly basis, to ensure that all doctors who participate in Croatian football have complete access to medical knowledge and skills.

From the 2020/21 season, UEFA will implement an initiative under its HatTrick incentive scheme specifically to support Europe’s national associations in the organisation of a cascaded FDEP workshop. Associations will be able to apply for assistance on an annual basis, and associations are being encouraged to make use of this opportunity.

The final word on this essential programme for European football goes to the new chairman of the UEFA Medical Committee, Dr Tim Meyer: “The UEFA FDEP cascading programme is an essential part of the work of the UEFA medical unit. The programme aims to train football doctors and raise the standards of football medicine across Europe.”