Fifa gives thumbs up to Wits' Exercise Centre


The centre, established in 2004, aims to integrate sports science and medicine to investigate sports injuries, sports performance, doping in sport, as well as chronic disease.

“Our aim is to be the centre of choice in education, technology, research and service in sports medicine, science, health and fitness solutions,” said the Wits centre director Dr Demitri Constantinou.

The first of its kind on the African continent and the sixth in the world, the centre seeks to offer footballers in South Africa and across Africa not only the best treatment and diagnosis of injuries, but also injury prevention procedures and plans.

Constantinou said the university was honoured they were to be recognised by Fifa as a medical centre of excellence.

Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang said Fifa's endorsement was an exciting and prestigious achievement not only for Wits, but for South Africa and the continent as a whole.

Chief Executive Officer of the 2010 Local Organising Committee Danny Jordaan said despite South Africa's poor performance in the 2008 African Cup of Nations in Ghana, Bafana Bafana ran Senegal into the ground in its final match as result of their fitness and health.

He explained that local players and European players differed in physical stature and that local players were unable to reach their full potential because of a lack of scientific and medical support and rehabilitation after sustaining injuries.

Fifa Chief Medical Officer Professor Jiri Dvorak said there are about 268 million active football players in the world.

“In France an average of 37 000 football matches are played every weekend, and in Germany 72 000 games are played over the weekend.

“On average, an injury is sustained every 1.6 games, and it costs about $150 (about R1000) per person for that injury which is costing the game an exorbitant amount of money.

“The focus of sports medicine must be on prevention and a reduction in the injury rate.”

Dvorak explained how research done by FIFA has found that the average child who begins playing football before the age of six is less likely to sustain injuries as easily as a child who started playing after this age.