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Medicine for football: football for health
  1. M D'Hooghe
  1. Chairman Medical Commission FIFA; Chairman Medical Commission UEFA


Lecture 7

Football has developed enormously over the last 25 years but there is no doubt that over the same period the world around football has developed even further.

The medical world around football has been no exception to this.

In the first part of the conference I will explain how the Medical Commission of FIFA and UEFA try to answer the challenge: medicine for football.

It started with the four classical themes of sports medicine: traumatology, physiology, psychology and pharmacology. We should add that important aspects of nutrition, hydration and hygiene have been gradually joining this leading quartet.

Quite rightly too, another major focus has been the prevention of injuries. Over the last years, especially due to the many cases of sudden death, the importance of emergency medicine was largely emphasised.

Even more specific fields have also joined the list: for example, youth football, women's football, medical care in relation to refereeing, specific traumatology of the goalkeeper.

The globalisation of football has created new problems in the medical sector:

  • What are the criteria for adaptation to jetlag?

  • What medical preparation and care is needed for a team playing matches and tournaments at high altitude?

  • What measures should be taken for matches played in extremely hot conditions with an obvious risk of serious dehydration?

We must also highlight the problem of the fight against doping in football. We test the presence of amphetamines, narcotics and anabolic steroids, diuretics, and peptide hormones, particularly erythropoietin and growth hormone. We are confronted with excessive use of β2-agonists and corticosteroids.

Looking into the future we can already detect the advent of genetic doping whereby athletes will be genetically prepared to improve artificially all former sport performances.

Our philosophy is there are three important reasons for refusing any form of doping:

  • The use of doping is opposed to the ethics of sport. In a world of sports where ethical arguments are defeated every day by commercial considerations the medical world should stand firm as the first guardian of ethics.

  • Doping is prejudicial to the integrity of our competitions. We must not collaborate in the organisation of football games where artificial medications take the place of natural values such as talent, training, skill, character and endurance.

  • Above all we must respect the health of the athletes.

We will discuss the importance of football for health: studies have proven that weekly practice of football is superior to many other exercises in the care for health. The importance of physical exercise, particularly by football, will be underlined as an important preventive factor in the health of people of all ages.

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