Anecdotes of sports medicine - Van Toorn

In this set of articles you will find anecdotes from the field of sports medicine, including some that I could experience myself during the 17 years that I was organizer of the Limburg Congress for Sport Medicine.

The very first Limburgs Congress of Sports Medicine was held on November 6, 1982 in the University Center of Diepenbeek with Sports Medicine in football as a subject. During that time, many injured Belgian footballers went to Dick Van Toorn (1932-2013), a physiotherapist from Rotterdam, who belonged to the medical staff of football club Feyenoord, and who was known for his unorthodox and perhaps controversial treatment method. "Without pain, no healing" and "Gentle healers make smelly wounds" were his favorite slogans.

We thought it would be interesting that the Dutchman would give a lecture about his methods at our first congress and we invited him as a speaker. He did not bite, but wanted to attend the first edition 'for free' and would then decide if he would give a lecture in the next edition. He actually attended and the footballers who were in the room for a debate recognized him immediately. As agreed,we invited him again as a speaker the following year but he still wasn't convinced.

It is true that he did strange things, different than others. He literally put injured athletes to the rack, because in his opinion injuries could only be cured by pain and blood flow. For this he used self-designed devices, which were made for him by his neighbor who was an instrument maker. The devices looked like medieval torture tools and the customers he treated talked about torments.

He became well known after treating the injury-sensitive Arjen Robben shortly before the 2010 World Cup. Robben suffered an hamstring injury and that treatment usually lasted four to six weeks. Van Toorn healed Robben in a week by which he could particpate at the World Cup in South Africa. When Robben reinjured himself a few weeks later and could not play for months, a conflict arose between his club Bayern Munich and the Dutch Football Association. The Germans blamed the treatment method of Van Toorn completely.

Dick van Toorn died in July 2013 after a stroke.