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Give Hippocrates a jersey: promoting health through football/sport
  1. Jiri Dvořák
  1. F-MARC, FIFA Medical Assessment and Research Centre, Zurich, Switzerland
  1. Professor Jiri Dvorak, FIFA Medical Centre of Excellence, Schulthess Clinic, Lengghalde 2, 8008 Zurich, Switzerland; jiri.dvorak{at}

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As sports physicians, we follow the Hippocratic Oath and support the philosophy: no borders, no colour, no politics, no constraints—exercise for fun with the objective of improving physical and mental fitness.


During the Olympic Games 2004 in Athens, many of us had the opportunity to remind ourselves of the historical perspectives of medicine while visiting sites associated with the father of medicine, Hippocrates (460–377BC); highlights included the Acropolis and his birth and place of work on the island of Kos. While visiting those places and recalling the achievements of Hippocrates, it is appropriate to reflect on the Hippocratic Oath, which we physicians still follow today when we fulfil our duties according to the ethical principles of our profession.

The Hippocratic Oath begins with the following sentence: “I swear by Apollo, Aesculapius, Hygeia, and Panacea…”. To understand the meaning of the commitment undertaken by all physicians, we have to understand the hierarchy of the gods at that time, which led to the “Ancient healthcare management” (T Drobny, 2006, personal communication, fig 1).

Figure 1

Ancient healthcare management.

Apollo, the physician, was the son of Zeus and, as was the custom at that time, he declared his son Aesculapius the God of Medicine. Aesculapius called his first-born daughter Hygeia, the Goddess of Health and his second daughter Panacea, the Goddess of Cures. Aesculapius understood the principle and the importance of prevention, and considered the maintenance of good health to be more important than developing cures. Therefore, when taking the Hippocratic Oath, we physicians should be aware that we swear first to Hygeia, so our first objective should be to maintain health and prevent diseases and injuries of those we look after.

The Hippocratic Oath ends with the following sentence: “If, therefore, I observe this oath and do not violate it, may I prosper …

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