Every soccer player needs to undergo an annual health checkup (also known as a medical screening). It is a series of medical examinations or tests conducted by a physiotherapist or a sports physician. These checkups are used to determine whether there are any potential problems, injuries that the player is susceptible to or that are present, or other pre-existing conditions. Every soccer club wants to ensure that its players are healthy and in top condition (even some high-profile players have failed their medicals and lost their contracts)..
The UEFA Champions League medical
This is an example of a comprehensive medical screening performed for international football players. It is divided into several components:
Medical history – research of a player’s medical history, family history of medical conditions, current symptoms and complaints, and current medications and vaccinations.
Personal football history – the number of games played in the previous year, the dominant leg, and the details of the playing position.
General medical exam – a physical examination routinely conducted by a doctor (reflexes, chest and heart sounds, blood pressure, etc.)
Laboratory examinations – a mandatory urine test and blood draw (with a range of other tests).
Special cardiological examination – an echocardiography and a 12-lead electrocardiogram.
Functional tests and orthopedic examination – functional examination tests and inspections of the spinal column, shoulder, knee, hip, ankle, lower leg, and foot are mandatory. Other recommended tests include muscle strength, muscle balance, and range of motion tests.
Every club has its own ways
The UEFA Champions League is a major event, so the medical screening tests they conduct are rigorous and standardized. However, every club has its own ways of doing things and there’s no standard medical as such. When players are being transferred from one club to another, they usually undergo a 2-day medical conducted by the club’s medical team that provides much information to the club’s executives and manager who have to make the final decision.
Most medicals feature certain key elements, such as cardio concerns. Clubs have become more diligent about checking for any heart irregularities since Fabrice Muamba’s heart attack. Some clubs will include vision, hearing, and dental checks. Even poor dental care can impair one’s overall health, and cause respirational infections, cardiovascular problems, and a myriad of other health issues. It’s not uncommon to see soccer, like Cristiano Ronaldo, choosing to get their teeth in line. This is why many of them opt for quality dental veneers, to prevent any future teeth misalignment and issues.
Routine medical tests
These are the key elements to every medical test a soccer player has to undergo:
Musculoskeletal stability. The medical team looks at possible weak spots, such as the pelvic region and lower back, where adductor and hamstring problems can originate from. Players are also tested for any muscle tightness or defects in function, using drills like lunges, hop tests, and squats.
Heart and health. Heart tests include a heart health history questionnaire, an echo monitor, cardiac screening with an ECG, as well as fitness checks and blood tests. For detecting health issues like diabetes, club doctors may include a urine test to detect ketones or proteins.
Deep scanning. Performed in case there’s a history of health problems, when a club will have a hospital on standby for an ultrasound scan or an MRI.
Isokinetic issues. The club’s medical team can monitor two muscle groups as they work together (e.g. hamstrings and quads) to identify weaknesses which have developed post-injury or can be a sign of a possible injury.
Body fat score. A player’s body fat score can be measured by using Bioelectric Impedance technology, which sends electrical signals throughout the body to measure fat and lean tissue. Professional soccer players are expected to have around 10% of body fat.
Clubs rarely sign players with an existing injury at the time, and they look for players who have played consistently. It is the club’s obligation to provide the manager with a health assessment of where the players are physically, and what needs to be done to bring them up to full fitness.