June 1, 2020

“The players who have tested positive now could not play until the end of May”

UEFA has delayed the European Championship until 2021 so that the national leagues, the Champions League and the Europa League can be finished, but the problems have not disappeared even though the most optimistic forecasts are fulfilled, as explained in this interview by Dr. Pedro Luis Ripoll, director of the Ripoll y De Prado clinic, which has the FIFA 5-star certificate, and a member of the medical commission of the Royal Spanish Football Federation. At the moment, in Spain, the latest news is that football will not resume until the Government says so. There is no return date.

-The footballers prepare on their own at home, is that useful?

-Football players are going to spend almost the longest time probably in their sports history … I mean. The last game was on March 8. So right now, except for the privileged people, because I speak of the crowd, from the Third Division up, they have not run for many days …

-And what they have left…

– This supposes a loss of physical form and also a loss of the ability of proprioception, that is, of the automatic control of the sports gesture against risk. The brain also needs training: not only is it physical, the brain also needs to exercise its coordination to control the risk of the joints and muscles, and this is going to be untrained.

-It is a longer break than when a season ends and the preseason begins the following year.

-Yes, both physical and proprioceptive. At the end of April, if he went back there, the player will be misfit in a generic concept that encompasses all the loss of the set-up. Both physical and psychological preparation will be depressed.

-And also infected soccer players have left …

-Yes, we have an added problem because some footballers are infected, and we have not reached the peak of the epidemic, which is why among the players it is more than likely that they will continue to be positive. These footballers will have to spend approximately a month to cure the disease, plus fifteen days of isolation that the World Health Organization has recommended to those who are discharged, because they can continue to transmit the virus. Overall, if a footballer has now tested positive, he will recover for a month, plus the fortnight … In May he could start training, and I mean training. No less than two or three weeks to get ready. They could be in a position to compete by the end of the month. And that today, what about those who are infected from now on? The date is running. This is going to create an alteration of the serious competition, the Federation will undoubtedly take the appropriate measures, but I do have to point it out. Doctors who have responsibility in football must warn that the competition will be seriously disrupted. The doctor’s vision right now is to cure, of course, but it is also prevention.

-Will the rest of the players also have to do a small preseason?

-We are talking that many players will have to do two or three weeks of set-up when they return to the activity. The uninfected could start exercising once the isolation period ends, but some type of test would have to be done to verify that they are free of the virus, although it is difficult because you are tested today at 5 and is negative. And maybe at 5:30 it is positive.

-Can they finish the competitions at the end of June?

-There may be two options, that this year’s is altered or that they choose to be next year’s, running the beginning of the next one, which from my point of view would be the right one. It must be remembered that in the winter of next year there will in all probability be a new wave of epidemic, for which I hope we will be more prepared.

-What has escaped us from this virus?

-There is a phrase that says “prevention is better than cure” and I would say, to put it in a positive way, that we are healing better than we have anticipated. If prevention is better than cure, we have predicted poorly and are curing better. In epidemics, try to stay ahead. We must rectify the mistakes that have been made by copying the successes of others who have faced this problem before us, with, for example, the increase in tests and the creation of Noah’s coffers. And what is very urgent is the provision to health personnel of the weapons with which to face this war. You cannot send the best of our society without weapons to the front to confront an enemy who is “unknown”, which is the worst thing that can be said in medicine of any pathological condition.

-Will there be a solution?

-I have the secret hope that the pharmaceutical industry will provide us sooner rather than later with effective weapons to fight this enemy. The best weapon that man has had to fight against diseases has always been talent and science.


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