The new role of Football Medicine in a changing game

Football Medicine, and more in general Sports Medicine, has gained more and more importance over the past few years. Sports people are paying more attention both to their well-being and to their physical health, due to the intense trainings and the high number of matches they have to play. As a result, sports medicine and the role of sports doctors, in particular football doctors, have considerably changed. The doctor has to support football players with cutting-edge strategies and technologies not only in the field of diagnostic therapy, but also in terms of prevention, raising players and sports people’s awareness of the rules and behaviours aimed at safeguarding their health, well-being and performance – not forgetting the different cultures and habits of the foreign football players and athletes, who might have different needs, including a special diet.   

To respond to these new needs and provide today’s sports physicians with some guidelines, Dr. Piero Volpi, Head of Knee Surgery and Traumatology of Sport at Humanitas Research Hospital and Head of the Medical Sector at FC Internazionale Milano, has published “Medico del calcio – il Manuale” (Edra Editions), which will be presented as a preview this evening at 18.00 at Humanitas University campus. “Football is a world that permeates and influences the lives of most Italians. For this reason, I strongly believe in the importance of creating and spreading within this sector a real culture of health and wellness that can have a knock-on effect at all sports levels, including male, female, youth and amateur. Medicine can enrich the whole world of sport, positively impacting on the training and career paths of the professionals working in the sector, such as physiotherapists,” explains Dr. Volpi. After many years of experience “in the field”, a single volume collects the cultural baggage necessary today. The best experts in the field collaborated with Dr. Volpi to share their longstanding knowledge and experience with the readers, with the primary objective of safeguarding the players’ health. But alongside this essential goal – explains the author – there are others: the fight against doping, abuse of legal drugs and the need for concrete prevention, all still underestimated.


An entire chapter is dedicated to prevention because of its increasingly important role. And football is no exception. Athletes are increasingly aware of the need to seek medical advice not only in case of accidents, as was the case in the past, but also simply to improve their performance. As Dr. Volpi recalls “this is an area in which the Sports Doctor must act with great vigour and ability. The specific knowledge of technical movements, training methods, rhythms and engagement in the technical and athletic commitments of competitions and training can reduce the incidence of disease and injury. Keeping your team of players in good health will make it possible to achieve the goals set at the beginning of the season.


An increasingly central theme in the public debate, vaccinations are an issue also in football following the issuing of the recommendations by Italian scientific societies for the vaccinations of professional athletes invarious fields. “The prophylaxis of infectious diseases preventable through vaccines in professional athletes becomes fundamental in view of three factors: the assessment of the infection risk linked to typical characteristics of sports (community life in close contact with teammates and staff, travelling abroad for competitions); the impact of the so-called “immunology of sport”, or the study of the effects of physical exercise on the immune system; the consequences that infectious diseases – even minor – can have on sports performance. This chapter therefore gives doctors, staff members and athletes, information about vaccinations, both in terms of benefits and opportunities as well as risks,” in order to help them make informed choices to preserve both their individual health and team performance.


With the growth of women’s football, doctors must be ready to respond to the needs and requirements of athletes who are physically different. Particular attention is paid to eating disorders, which develop during adolescence and can be the cause of hormonal imbalance, which might lead to the female athlete triad syndrome.


Humanitas is a highly specialized Hospital, Research and Teaching Center. Built around centers for the prevention and treatment of cancer, cardiovascular, neurological and orthopedic disease – together with an Ophthalmic Center and a Fertility Center – Humanitas also operates a highly specialised Emergency Department.