While the sports world may be roiling with steroid and other drug issues, there is good news in Santa Monica. Earlier this month, FIFA, the sports governing body that represents 250 million soccer players among 208 countries worldwide, formally accredited the Santa Monica Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Group as an official FIFA medical center. The only other FIFA- accredited clinics are in Europe (Switzerland and Germany), Asia (Japan and New Zealand), and Africa (South Africa).
Under the direction of Dr. Bert Mandelbaum, for over a decade Santa Monica Orthopaedic Group and its attendant foundation, Sports Medicine Research Foundation, have been at the forefront of soccer medicine, including athlete conditioning, injury prevention, and recovery. Dr. Mandelbaum and his associates are the official medical providers of the U.S. National Team, an assignment that includes travel to World Cup competitions. The group also initiated landmark research into how to make soccer safer for athletes, including a multi-year study that found that female players were two to eight times more likely to sustain ACL injuries. Accordingly, Dr. Mandelbaum and his team developed special conditioning and other therapies now embraced by numerous national teams, collegiate women soccer players, and others. The information is available free to soccer players and coaches worldwide at aclprevent.com.
Hank Steinbrecher, former Secretary General of United States Soccer Federation, attended the ceremony at the Clinic’s offices at 20th Street and Santa Monica Boulevard. Steinbrecher noted that FIFA became especially active in soccer safety following the sudden cardiatric death of a star Cameroon player in the semifinals of a 1993 international competition. In 1994, Dr. Jiri Dvorak became FIFA’s Chief Medical Officer, and he now oversees a program targeting safety for all 250 million soccer players worldwide. Dr. Dvorak traveled to Santa Monica from Zurich to personally confer FIFA’s accreditation of the Santa Monica Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Group.
Bob Bradley, head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team, was also in attendance. In his speech, Bradley noted, “Dr. Mandelbaum’s vision is bigger than just helping our National Team. He stepped outside to help soccer worldwide.”