In Spain, where all levels of soccer players are highly regarded, for
the last 80 years the Mutualidad de Futbolistas Catalanes organization has
ensured the continuing health of non-professional soccer players throughout
The mission is to treat soccer players injuries and to
accompany the player to the safe return to soccer, Orthopaedics
Today Europe Editorial Board member Ramon Cugat, MD, PhD, who has worked
with Mutualidad de Futbolistas Catalanes (MCF) since 1965, said.
For decades, Spanish law has mandated that all active, federated Spanish
soccer players have health insurance. Realizing that many players and their
families may be unable to afford medical insurance covering sports-related
injuries, in Catalunya it was offered by the non-profit MCF, established at the
same time as the Catalan Football Federation.
Today, MCF is a delegation of the bigger, national Mutualidad de
Futbolistas Españoles effort established under the Royal Spanish
Football Federation in 1948, according to Cugat.
Cugat, of Barcelona, credited those involved in MCFs early efforts
with creating an organization that has remained successful and effective.
It is because of years of commitment, dedication and the vision of all
the big names in Catalan orthopaedic surgery that the MCF is able to provide
the service it does, he said.
MCF orthopaedic pioneers include Emilio Moragas, MD, Juan Naves, MD,
Joaquin Cabot, MD and Jose Garcia Cugat, MD, among others.
The idea of creating the MCF at the same time as the Catalan
Football Federation is a most pioneering idea, which lasted through the last
century and will continue for years to come, Cugat said.
a surgical procedure on an MCF soccer player the orthopaedic surgeons (left
to right) Gilbert Steinbacher, MD, Ramon Cugat, MD, PhD, and Pedro Alvarez, MD.
Images: Cugat R
Treating all injuries
In Catalunya, approximately 124,000 soccer players are eligible for
treatment and follow-up care through MCF. Annually they sustain about 17,000
new injuries and undergo about 80,000 rehabilitation sessions and 1,400
surgeries, most of which are arthroscopic.
Barcelonas MCF reference center comprises four teams involving 14
orthopaedic surgeons and sports medicine specialists with rehabilitation,
diagnostic imaging and sonography departments. Cugats team includes
orthopaedic surgeons Pedro Alvarez, MD, and Gilbert Steinbacher, MD, two sports
medicine doctors, and sonography specialists Marta Rius and Juan Manuel Boffa.
We are doing more ultrasounds for diagnostic reasons,
because ultrasound shows more muscular conditions and is more dynamic than MRI,
Steinbacher told Orthopaedics Today Europe.
With approximately 1,600 clubs playing 4,000 matches in Catalunya on
most weekends, reference center teams see a variety of injuries.
Our requirements are flexible enough to treat all
soccer injuries, but we must make sure the injury occurred
during the practice of soccer, matches, training, etc., Cugat noted.
Injuries to the knee, which are most common, typically involve the ACL
and/or the meniscus.
I think we are lucky because we see a large concentration of very
specific sports pathology here, noted Steinbacher, who has worked with
MCF nearly 7 years.
One advantage for MCF physicians is the opportunity to follow some
athletes throughout their careers, sometimes until they become professional
soccer players. Another is the chance to become experts at managing certain
soccer injuries or to become knowledgeable about and skilled at treating such
osteochondritis of the talus that others rarely see,
according to Steinbacher.
Members of the MCF medical and
physiotherapy team attend a Catalonian National Team soccer match. MCF team
members develop a special understanding of soccer injuries while treating
players throughout their careers.
Furthermore, soccer players who are motivated to recover quickly are
also a pleasure to work with, he said. You dont have to push them.
You just have to stop them from maybe playing football with a cast.
MCF orthopaedic surgeons, like Cugat, also train doctors from all over
the world in sports medicine techniques, typically hosting 10 or 12 visiting
fellows each year. This year, doctors from Chile, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela,
Portugal and France have come to Barcelona to observe his sports medicine
They want to come here because our focus is only on soccer; just
injuries that occur in soccer players, noted Cugat, who operates on 20 to
30 players per week.
Whether undergoing treatment of a meniscal tear, a
meniscal transplantation, repair of a torn ACL, PCL or MCL,
or fixation of an ankle fracture, the MCF ensures that junior through senior
level soccer players get the orthopaedic care they need.
Players who are treated with surgery in Barcelona receive a very
good quality of treatment, Steinbacher said. by Susan M. Rapp
- Ramon Cugat, MD, PhD, is an orthopaedic surgeon with Mutualidad de
Futbolistas Catalanes in Barcelona and is an Editorial Board member for
Orthopaedics Today Europe. He can be reached at
- Gilbert Steinbacher, MD, is an orthopaedic surgeon with Mutualidad
de Futbolistas Catalanes. He can be reached at