Ecuador '95 - Medical Report

by Dr Antonio Losada
member FIFA Sports Medical Committee

Well before the start of this 3rd U17 World Championship, the FIFA Medical Committee sent out a circular to all participating teams concerning the climatic conditions in Ecuador. The information contained in this document referred to such factors as the altitude of the venues, the climate, time differences, possible nutritional problems (loss of liquid during the acclimatisation phase) and recommendations about preventive measures that could help avoid health problems.

Injured players had to be treated off the field in Ecuador as well. Injured players had to be treated off of the field in Ecuador as well. After initial difficulty, the work between first-aid personnel and team doctors improved steadily.
This allowed all the teams sufficient time to prepare and to make the necessary medical arrangements. All the delegations put a lot of emphasis on proper medical assistance being available, and with one exception every team had at least one doctor and a physiotherapist in attendance. Two teams in fact brought along a psychologist as well.

The teams' medical staff received extra support from the medical department of the local organisation committee. In every venue appropriate personnel and equipment were put at the disposal of FIFA and the participating teams. In the stadiums themselves, the Red Cross took on the responsibility for providing medical attention for players, officials and spectators. The majority of the delegations present expressed satisfaction with the infrastructure provided, the organisation and efficiency of medical services and general logistics, as well as with the food and accommodation.

The sporting behaviour of all the teams taking part meant that there were practically no serious injuries. In training, one German player broke a finger; a Portuguese player broke his big toe; six of the Australian squad went down with digestive problems accompanied by fever, but recovered quickly and were able to continue to play without any problem.

Nearly all the teams were well acclimatised by the start of the tournament. Some of them had spent 10 to 14 days in Colorado in the USA, some had arrived very early in Ecuador. Others did their preparation at home or in altitude camps in Europe. For players of this age group, adjustment is very rapid, which contrasts with the referees, some of whom had more serious problems in this respect. In addition, most of the players had undergone thorough medical testing before the competition began, so that any possible risks could be avoided.

The practice of carrying injured players off on a stretcher proved its worth again and kept interruptions due to injuries to a minimum. However, some team doctors had expressed initial concern over the fact that the medical assistants could possibly be lifting a player on to a stretcher before his own team officials had had a chance to examine him and make a diagnosis.

As part of the fair play campaign promoted by FIFA and the host country, drug tests were carried out during the group games and throughout the knockout stage of the tournament, but every one proved to be negative.

In summary, it can be said that the medical services in Ecuador were well organised and played a significant role in making this a successful competition.

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