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Isokinetic centre

Italian rehabilitation expert Isokinetic has opened its first international facility in central London. The new clinic was recently accredited as a FIFA Medical Centre of Excellence

by Kirstyn MacRandal | Published in Sports Management 2015 issue 2
Isokinetic London offers facilities which would usually only be available at elite sports medicine or military rehabilitation centres
Isokinetic London offers facilities which would usually only be available at elite sports medicine or military rehabilitation centres

During 1987, Dr Stefano Della Villa and his colleague Dr Gianni Nanni launched Isokinetic Medical Group and opened the company’s first orthopaedic rehabilitation centre in Bologna, Italy. Now, after spending 27 years developing the concept – which aims to shorten the time it takes to recover from serious injuries – they have opened the doors to Isokinetic’s first international centre on London’s famous Harley Street. The London site was recently accredited as the first FIFA Medical Centre of Excellence.

Isokinetic aims to offer a new approach to the way in which sports injuries are managed. At the core of its strategy is an inter-disciplinary approach to recovery. With a range of rehabilitation specialists – including sports medicine experts, physiotherapists and rehabilitation scientists – working together in a team setting, the Isokinetic ethos is to create a personalised service and to place the patient at the very heart of recovery.

“We pride ourselves in tailoring our rehabilitation programmes to the patient,” says Mike Davison, MD of Isokinetic London. “Each patient at Isokinetic is assigned a dedicated case manager who co-ordinates a team of experts and supports the patient from day one of the recovery journey through to a return to the field. For us, every patient is treated equal, whether they are an international footballer or somebody who plays tennis to keep fit.”

Central to Isokinetic’s philosophy is comradery; so often associated with sport but lost in sport rehabilitation. With open plan recovery spaces, patients are encouraged to train alongside each other, providing support and encouragement – whether elite stars or weekend players.

“Recovery is a long process and there is no such thing as a quick fix,” says Davison. “The way Isokinetic operates is to build a rapport among patients.

“The aim is to make sure no-one feels alone on the journey. Through experience, we’ve found that this approach leads to greater adherence to the rehabilitation processes. It’s not for everyone but it makes for a great atmosphere.”

An Italian History
Dr Stefano Della Villa’s vision – for there to be a new high-tech approach to sports injury rehabilitation and for it to be at the forefront of scientific research – came to him after completing an internship in the US. Having worked alongside professor Michael Dillingham, director of Stanford University’s sports medicine programme, Della Villa returned to Italy determined to put his freshly gained knowledge to use and to set up his own business. At the core of his vision was the intention to focus on developing technologies.

He founded Isokinetic Medical Group in 1997 and began working with professional athletes, including one of Italy’s most iconic footballers, Roberto Baggio. When Baggio ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament in 2002, Della Villa and his team supported his intensive rehabilitation back to international football in just 77 days – the fastest recorded return to professional football following this type of injury.

Recognition for Isokinetic’s methods came in 2009 when the company – which by this time had opened centres in Rome, Verona, Bologna, Milan, Cortina and Turin – was awarded FIFA Medical Centre of Excellence status.

As well as developing technologies, Isokinetic has also invested in research. For the past 24 years the company has hosted the annual Football Medicine Strategies conference, attracting more than 2,000 delegates from 75 countries each year. Discussing the latest issues and new research, the conference is attended by international leaders in the sports industry, such as FIFA’s chief medical officer, professor Jiri Dvorak.

In addition to this, Isokinetic boasts a dedicated Education and Research Department, pioneering new techniques for the industry.

The Journey to London
After establishing seven centres in Italy, the Isokinetic Medical Group looked to expand its reach by launching an international hub. As host to the 2012 Olympic Games and a centre for international sports events, London has become a destination for global sporting activity and was seen as the obvious choice for the first international Isokinetic centre. To test the waters, the company initially developed a ‘pop-up’ centre on Welbeck Way, London. The site also served as a temporary clinic while the flagship Harley Street centre was built.

The newly opened Isokinetic London, designed by Sonnemann Toon Architects, boasts 11,000sq ft over four storeys, hidden behind a historical Georgian façade in a building owned by Howard de Walden Estate – whose historic connections to Marylebone date back to around 1710.

The development did not come without its issues, however. Both landlord and estate owner faced a construction conundrum, as the properties which were earmarked for conversion were back to back instead of side by side.

Initially plans for the buildings were turned down, requiring a radical rethink of the original design. However, patience, creativity and persistence allowed Isokinetic to officially open its doors for business in September 2014.

“It was critical that the complex design incorporated our five stages of recovery,” says Mike Davison. “Patients need to see their progress through the rehabilitation journey and this is why we designed the centre with initial water rehabilitation sessions starting at the base of the building and working up to the final fitness pitch recovery sessions on the top floor.”

The London clinic houses three floors of modern rehabilitation spaces, which are typically associated with elite sports or a military rehabilitation environment.

There are three specific treatment, testing and recovery gyms, a multi-depth 50sq m aqua therapy pool and an indoor 4G field. The centre is also equipped with a camera system and light reaction technology for on-field movement analysis, as well as Technogym fitness kit, including a Leg Press MED, specifically designed for sport rehabilitation.

Alongside this, there are a series of consulting suites and relaxation areas which have been designed to make the patient feel more at home, calm and comfortable. Isokinetic London is now home to some of the leading practitioners in the field of sports and physical medicine, such as Dr Phil Batty and Dr Matthew Stride. Dr Batty previously held the position of senior team doctor for the English Rugby Football Union and also worked with Manchester City FC when the team won the Premier League title. Dr Stride’s experience spans both sport and the military, having formerly held positions at Headley Court and in professional football with Chelsea Football Club’s Academy and as Team Doctor for Brentford Football Club.

The future is connected
Dr Della Villa remains passionate about the concept he has created and says that Isokinetic’s approach – to put the patient at the heart of the rehabilitation – may seem a no-brainer, but is rarely implemented at other centres, especially in the UK where the healthcare system has a reputation for being somewhat disjointed. Della Villa also sees the sharing of Isokinetic’s knowledge, practises and pathologies as being of paramount importance to the future of sports medicine and rehabilitation.

He says that his concept – which is based on “meeting of the minds and a consistent drive for innovation” – has been crucial in setting Isokinetic apart from other clinics.

“Prevention is the answer,” Della Villa adds. “The more we can educate and implement our knowledge and training, the healthier the economics of injury become for all parties involved.”

Specialised care

With more than 27 years’ experience in sport injury rehabilitation, Isokinetic Medical Group has dealt with a wide range of injuries, but has specialised in acute knee injuries.

According to Mike Davison, Isokinetic’s MD for UK operations, the group has treated more than 7,500 anterior cruciate ligaments (ACLs).

“As one of the body’s most complex joints the knee is susceptible to injury, especially under the pressures placed on the joint during sport,” says Davison.

“All too often we see ACL ruptures as a result of sport, in particular among elite players.”

Isokinetic is an expert in ACL injuries
Isokinetic is an expert in ACL injuries

Isokinetic in brief

• Company founded: 1987 in Bologna
• Isokinetic London opened 29th September 2014 and officially on 11th November 2014
• 11 Harley Street is a Howard de Walden Estate property
• Isokinetic London was designed by Sonnemann Toon Architects
• Number of centres around the world: 8
• Oldest and youngest patient: 7 and 94
• Number of patients: 11,000 per year (1,200 in London)
• Most common injury: anterior cruciate ligament of the knee (ACL)

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