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ECNL May 14, 2020

ECNL appoints Chief Medical Advisor as return-to-play protocols take shape

Richmond, VA – The Elite Clubs National League has announced the appointment of Drew Watson, MD, MS, as Chief Medical Advisor to the ECNL, effective immediately.

This newly-formed position within the ECNL will support the health and safety of players, provide education to coaches and clubs, and guide the league in developing best practices in youth soccer.

Dr. Watson is a board certified pediatrician and sports medicine physician at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in the Departments of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation. He is a team physician for University of Wisconsin Division of Intercollegiate Athletics and the Head Team Physician for Forward Madison FC in USL League One.

In addition to his clinical roles, Dr. Watson is a nationally recognized researcher in sports medicine, and has published extensively on cardiovascular exercise physiology and the effects of fitness, training load, sleep, and well-being on injury risk and performance in athletes. He is the lead author of the clinical report on soccer injuries in children and adolescents from the American Academy of Pediatrics and a member of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine.

“Dr. Watson will be an incredible resource for the ECNL and our clubs,” said Christian Lavers, ECNL President. “His background as a player and coach, combined with his incredible medical qualifications, experience and research with youth athletes, will make him a tremendous asset for the league into the future and will help us create an even better environment for youth development.”

In addition to his career as a physician, Dr. Watson has been a youth soccer coach for more than 20 years, earning his US Soccer “A” license in 2001, and continues coaching youth soccer today. In his role as ECNL Chief Medical Advisor, Dr. Watson will work to promote the health and safety of ECNL players in terms of both medical care and education of players, parents, and coaches.

“I feel truly fortunate to have this opportunity with the ECNL,” said Dr. Watson. “Promoting the health and safety of athletes is why I became a physician, and to do so within the extraordinary environment that the ECNL provides is really exciting. I look forward to contributing to the development and well-being of these amazing young players.”

As a national leader in youth athletics, providing a platform for the development of some of the world’s best young players, the ECNL is faced with new conversations related to player health and well-being.

Initially, Dr. Watson will provide recommendations to help guide the ECNL and its member clubs regarding return-to-play protocols in training and competition through COVID-19 as players and teams begin engaging in team soccer. As competitions resume, Dr. Watson will optimize the safety protocols and medical care for ECNL members at National Events and other league programs.

“The creation of the Chief Medical Advisor post was in development prior to COVID-19, but clearly has tremendous significance in light of the current health crisis. Everyone in youth sports is facing new health concerns and challenges as clubs, events and leagues return to play. Dr. Watson will play a crucial role as we assess the best options and process for a safe return-to-play that allows athletes to continue their development,” added Lavers.

Dr. Watson will also provide education and recommendations throughout the year regarding player health, development, injury prevention and performance, and will share current research and best practices in these areas and more as part of the annual ECNL Coaching Symposium.

Finally, Dr. Watson will be initiating and coordinating research opportunities within the ECNL to generate cutting-edge data and provide sport-specific information and recommendations among a unique population of elite athletes.