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magazine 2012/1
Only those who are physically fit can score goals. This may sound like a truism, but
it is based on systematic work, as demonstrated by the Sports Medical Center of the
Royal Netherlands Football Association (KNVB) in the Dutch town of Zeist. The chief
physician, Dr. Gert-Jan Goudswaard, relies on the support of top-class physiotherapy
and a special kind of stock system.
The Sports Medical Center of the Royal Netherlands Football Association
An oasis of rehabilitation
If travelers coming from Utrecht today were
to turn off into a small pine forest just be-
fore reaching the town of Zeist, they would
suddenly come across a crowd of children.
This is thanks to the Royal Netherlands Foot-
ball Association (Koninklijke Nederlandse
Voetbal Bond, KNVB), which is hosting a spe-
cial afternoon for the football stars of the fu-
ture. Holding on to their parents’ hands, the
children flock toward the main building. As
they walk through the front yard, they pass a
group of bronze statues. Most of the children
recognize each of the figures immediately,
and two in particular: Frank Rijkaard and the
footballing genius Johan Cruyff are standing
right at the front. Is it just pure chance that
these former midfield impresarios are point-
ing the children in the right direction?
The road branches off toward a hotel and
winds its way past charming pavilions, com-
ing to an end at a building adapted to suit
the undulating landscape: the Sports Medi-
cal Center of the Royal Netherlands Football
Association. Here, amid these magnificent
surroundings, are all the facilities needed to
provide injured footballers from the Dutch
national team with the highest standard
of medical care. Yet these facilities are not
just reserved for footballers: Dr. Gert-Jan
Goudswaard is keen to stress that the Sports
Medical Center is open to ordinary patients
as well as elite athletes.
Encouraging young talent
with medical support
The team physician for Oranje, as the nation-
al football team is known in the Netherlands,
guides his visitors past a range of memo-
rabilia consisting of colorful football shirts
and into a conference room. “Being team
physician at the KNVB is a full-time job,”
explains the specialist in sports medicine.
“I have been here since 2003. As well as
looking after the men’s national team, I also
take care of youth representative teams for
both girls and boys. That includes the Under-
17s teams, which are already showing a great
deal of talent.”
Cultivating young talent is a theme that
crops up again and again in the course of
the conversation. The Dutch model enjoys
an outstanding worldwide reputation, with
its pioneering approach of providing early
training at residential football academies.
The effectiveness of this early development
system has been proven in an impressive
manner by the successes of the “Oranje.”
However, these triumphs are based on more
than just technology and tactics. Providing
footballers with systematic medical support
from an early age is also essential, as the
KNVB physician makes clear: “I see a lot of
young, talented players over a long period,
so I know how they are developing physi-
cally. This naturally helps me a lot if I see
them playing in the national team later on
and they ever need medical treatment.” As
well as having a wealth of collected data at
his disposal, Dr. Goudswaard is supported
by the outstanding physiotherapy depart-
ment at the Sports Medical Center: “I have
been working with the chief physiotherapist,
Ricardo de Sanders, for almost 20 years. In
our practical work, just one word is enough
and we both understand what to do.” In
2010, the facility in Zeist was awarded the
title of “FIFA Medical Centre of Excellence”
by the International Federation of Associa-
tion Football.
“What is the use of a support
I don’t have?”
Just as Dr. Goudswaard refuses to leave any-
thing to chance in his medical procedures,
he also works proactively with the medical
aids at his disposal: “My principle is that
it is better to have the necessary products
readily available than to have to go through
a laborious process to get hold of them,”
explains the team physician. “What is the
use of an outstanding support if I don’t have
it to hand?” In practice, this means that
the Sports Medical Center keeps a constant
supply of Bauerfeind supports, orthoses and
medical compression stockings in all avail-
able sizes.
A mobile stock system has already been put
into practice, having been sent out with the
Dutch team to South Africa for the last World
Cup. The plan is for a large case of medical
aids to accompany the team in June to the
2012 European Championships in Poland and
the Ukraine too. Selecting the right products
for the case was a remarkably easy task.
Virtually the entire range is included: “The
typical injuries we see in football affect the
knees, ankles, shoulder, elbows – in fact all
of the joints, as well as, of course, the soft
tissue,” remarks Dr. Goudswaard. “Everything
might prove useful.” Even a wrist orthosis.
“We had two cases where I was glad to have
the ManuLoc available,” he recalls. “These
incidents involved outfield players, rather
than goalkeepers, who had fallen on their
hands. Thanks to the stabilizing orthosis,
their problem was quickly alleviated and
they were soon able to play again.”
Recovery times are mandatory
Keeping a close eye on the team’s state
of health, on players such as van Persie,
Pictures: Stefan Durstewitz
Kim Blewanus, physiotherapist at the SMC.