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At the “Return to Play” conference about football medicine in London, FIFPro Chief Medical Officer Vincent Gouttebarge spoke with Derby County Chief Medical Officer Bryan English (below left) and Isokinetic Medical Group Managing Director Mike Davison (below right).

The event last month was organized by Isokinetic Medical Group, which runs sports injury clinics in Italy and the U.K. Here is an excerpt of the conversations:

FIFPro: What is the key message you give to a player while he recovers from injury?

Bryan English: It is important to maintain focus on good quality sleep, nutrition and general lifestyle management. Listen to the advice from your medical team and try to comply with all aspects of rehabilitation with a positive frame of mind. If you miss any part of the process then ask questions from the people you work with. Trust is a key factor in returning to play.

FIFPro: Fear of re-injury is very common among players. What advice could you give them?

Bryan English: Fear of re-injury is a genuine concern and this can have psychological as well as physical manifestations. Over training and under training can cause susceptibility to re-injury and the feedback from the player is very important in this whole process. The rehabilitation phase should be individual to each player and should be target driven and based on measurements to evaluate the success of the process. The medical team should have the interests of the player at heart in order to ensure quick and safe return to play.

FIFPro: FIFPro pays attention to the long-term health of football players such as joint pains and mental health problems. Is there a need for that?

Bryan English: There is a great need for continuing surveillance of long term health consequences for football players. The welfare of the player is of paramount importance to the doctor not only during his or her career but also in life after football. The doctor will encourage continuing research to ensure that players are not unnecessarily damaged short or long term due to the demands of the game. As a doctor I strongly support the work of FIFPro

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FIFPro: What are the key messages you would pass on to football players?

Mike Davison: We are here to support you: defending your rights to safety, protecting you from doping violations, maximising your career and allowing you to do what you enjoy doing. You as players though need to take responsibility for having a good relationship with us, the manager and the other stakeholders. Your professionalism and in particular your off field behaviour is critical to help deliver on the promise we make to you.  Avoid compromising yourself and give yourself the chance to recover properly from games and training. You need to speak directly, honestly and often with members of the support and coaching team.

FIFPro:  What do you expect for the next few years when it comes to football medicine?

Mike Davison: The “Future of Football Medicine” is the title of our next conference at Barcelona’s Camp Nou in May 2017. For sure we will see an even greater level of investment, which in turn can only help with enhanced player care.  We must though be careful not just to invest in fashionable technologies but in “know-how” and things that really make a difference. There will be increased attention and scrutiny of medical practice and scientific advancement, especially as it is foreseeable that there will be live broadcast data for physical and physiological data such as heart rate, stress levels and effort expended.

FIFPro: FIFPro pays attention to the long-term health of football players such as joint pains and mental health problems. Is there a need for that?

Mike Davison: It is an absolute necessity. This is such a simple and beautiful game but we need to protect all that participate from longer term health consequences. Everyone has the right to health and dignity in their life after a sporting career. We have started on the path of understanding and quantifying the consequences of injury. It is clear that we have to find frameworks, education and rule changes to keep players safe after their careers. Prevention is better than cure.

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