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To do it at its best, you must have a strong relationship with the athlete, get in touch with him, try to figure out his way of reasoning, living, and psychology.
First Team Doctor
I’m one of two doctors for Juventus’ first team. We are both specialized in Sports Medicine and take care of the athlete at 360°. We are a sort of “general practitioners” for the players. We must have basic knowledge of almost every aspect of medicine with a variety of good contacts with top doctors of every specialty. We must have good knowledge of cardiology, nutrition, and exercise physiology, and very good experience and management of orthopedic problems, radiology, rehabilitation, and injury prevention. My work involves constant interaction with other staff, like coaches, managers, athletic trainers, performance coaches, sports scientists, physiotherapists, and rehabilitation trainers, that we have to manage and coordinate.
At this level, I’m working seven days a week. Even if the players have one-day free in the week, we often still need to take care of the injured players, so it’s very heavy in terms of time, concentration, and responsibility. In Italy, we are legally responsible under the “health protection” law, and also under the anti-doping regulations (subject to civil and criminal proceedings).
A typical day, when athletes have training at 11 A.M., I would start around 8 A.M. with a meeting between doctors and physiotherapists to schedule the treatments for the day and discuss the day before. After a briefing with the athletic trainers, we then wait for the players to arrive to see if anyone is experiencing any problems. We observe both gym and on-field training, break for lunch, then come back together for another briefing where we study the training load of our injured athletes and collect information that the physiotherapists took down during the training sessions.
This will help us coordinate the programs for the day and the week. Sometimes we have to study the blood examination, some diagnostic exams, speak with nutritionists and other colleagues about the specific problems of our athlete’s health as well.
I don’t think anyone was prepared for a pandemic event. My role has changed a lot because of the quarantine after the positive cases found amongst our team, and definitely during the lockdown and suspension of the championships.
We had to call the athletes every day because we couldn’t see each other face-to-face for about two months. We had to support them and their families from a psychological point of view and not only from a medical, nutritional, and performance point of view. When there was a possibility to restart training and competitions, we adopted the federal protocol to regulate every athlete and every person working with them, with an oropharyngeal test every 4 days and a serological test every two weeks. My everyday life changed a lot, as well as the way sports operate. It’s most important to try and keep everyone working safely.
In the high-level sports world, many athletes have a private staff or trusted people who have been following them for years. For us, we follow them every day and the approach must surely be one of professionalism and collaboration with the people who hold their trust. We can earn their trust day by day and show them that for everyday trouble our team is more than capable and that for bigger or chronic problems, the relationship with their staff will be assured and profitable. It’s important that they know they can rely on us as good and serious professionals without fear.
Over the years I have learned that the work of a doctor is much easier than the work of managing the athletes, staff, club, private physio’ and others throughout specific problems or injuries. To do it at it’s best, you must have a strong relationship with the athlete, get in touch with him, try to figure out his way of reasoning, living, and psychology. This is my personal thinking, I know that other colleagues do not share these beliefs and believe that it is better to have a more detached approach, limited to the professional aspect of the excellent knowledge of the medical subject.
Surely it is necessary to make sure the athlete understands that we know their type of injury very well and that we will offer him/her the best possible care. Through consultations with world experts in the field, we can add extra reassurance. Most of all it’s important that the athlete knows we can handle that type of injury with his/her physical characteristics and past clinical history. It is necessary to explain all of the possible solutions and all of the therapeutic projections in the short, medium, and long term timeframes. Making the athlete feel that they are an integral part of the best possible therapeutic choice for him/her is also crucial in supporting them.
When I was a young volleyball player, my dream was to play in an Olympics. When I realized that because of my physical characteristics and my abilities, that this would not be possible, I tried to achieve it through my career.
As a doctor for the Italian Alpine Ski Team, I participated in three Olympic games: Torino 2006, Vancouver 2010, and Sochi 2014. They were surely fantastic personal and professional experiences.
In 2011, I started working in football (soccer), Italy’s national sport, with the team I was a fan of as a boy, A.C. Milan. I worked there for 8 seasons, fulfilling my dream of working for their first team.
Last year I changed clubs and moved over to Juventus FC with the opportunity to work with many fantastic and famous athletes and to participate at the top of the European championship, which has been a very good professional achievement.
Marco Freschi works hard seven days a week to give his athletes the best possible care. His personal approach to caring for his athletes on a deeper level is so important in gaining their trust and provides a safe and motivational space to heal. From the Olympics to A.C. Milan to Juventus FC, Marco has had an extremely successful career in sport so far. Marco had a dream of working for his favorite football club and he made it happen. He is a great example of, if you work hard enough, you can achieve your dreams.