Eva Carneiro Sports Physician

066: Eva Carneiro on doing what is right

Dr Eva Carneiro is this week’s guest (I will give you Eva’s introduction in two parts).

Eva is a Sports Physician and was one of the first eight pioneering doctors recruited nationally to the UK Sports and Exercise Medicine Specialist Training Programme. She worked in the New South Wales Institute of Sport in Sydney and at the Olympic Medical Institute in London in the build up to the Beijing Olympics.

Eva worked at Chelsea Football Club from 2009-2015. During her four seasons as First Team doctor the team was successful in winning Champions league, Premier league, Europa league, FA Cup and League Cup titles. During her six and half years with the team she worked with a total of seven elite international football managers. She is the first woman to sit on a team bench pitch-side in Champions League, Premier League, and Europa League competitions and the only woman to become the First Female Assistant Medical Director in a Football Club in the UK.  That’s the introduction to Eva’s medical and performance credentials.

Here are some details about an incident that erupted in 2015. On the first game of the 2015-16 premier league season, Chelsea played Swansea. During the game, Eden Hazard twice called for medical attention following an impact to his abdomen. The medical team were then then summoned on the pitch by the ref on two separate occasions ….  Eva, along with club physio Jon Fearn came onto the pitch to attend following rules of the game. But the manager Jose Mourinho reacted to the situation, because he didn’t feel the injury warranted attention. The reaction was pivotal to Eva’s case, first there was a demotion from the first team. Footage emerged of Jose Mourinho used abusive phrases towards Eva, which he denied being sexist in motivation. The subsequent furore received extensive press coverage, both for the dismissal, the claim for abuse and the character and personal attention, scrutiny and sensationalism that Eva was exposed to. Eva’s lawyers filed for constructive dismissal, but before she gave evidence the tribunal the case was settled on confidential terms. But importantly as part of the settlement, Chelsea issued a statement “We wish to place on record that in running onto the pitch Dr Carneiro was following both the rules of the game and fulfilling her responsibility to the players as a doctor, putting their safety first”. This was important because that statement indicates the position that Eva upheld; upheld beyond the stage of the game or its results, the Hazard situation, beyond the clash with the manager and club, beyond football, beyond sport perhaps too – in not only serving her professional duties and duty of care, but in doing what is right and not capitulating to compromise.

Eva’s case received widespread media and public attention all sorts of accusations, pressures, intrusions into her personal and private life for, as I say, essentially doing her job, but perhaps the difference is that she also held her ground against all of those pressures.

If you’ve tuned in to the dirt being dealt around this case – you’re in the wrong place, that’s not what this podcast is about. However, if you want to hear from someone who has operated at the heart of one of the most successful football clubs in recent history, if you want to hear the piercing lessons from someone who has lived through unwarranted scrutiny and exposure but has held the utmost professionalism throughout and is now leading a campaign for higher standards of professionalism, ethics and governance – and ultimately is standing for doing what is right, you are in the right place. The fact that she has pioneered in a ‘male dominated environment’ makes her achievements, perspectives and voice all the more profound.

Show notes

The key responsibilities of a doctor in a football club – but feeling the pressures and being effective in an elite football environment

Eva’s dream as a 16 year old, buying an American College of Sports Medicine book about sports injuries on the beach

Taking in the atmosphere. The adrenaline infecting every molecule of the buildings. Memories of Chelsea playing Barcelona FC in the Champions league behind Fernando Torres and getting the nod from Lionel Messi

Being part of the team – adding to the culture, team motivation and dynamics

Being an optimistic realist

How to weigh risk and judgement for the players, performance and the club when medical issues arise. Going on the journey with the players

Football restarting. Systems not in place to respect medical governance and players.

Non-medically staff can have a lot of power. You don’t learn about what’s required in 3 weeks. Huge credit to the medical staff for the immense work that’s go in to ready players as best they can.

Without the audit and review – competition has restarted, with enhanced protocols, but sustaining these protocols and within the culture of football could face problems.

Footballers being the only people in the country going back to work without social distancing.

Eva trained in accident and emergency to develop skills and understanding around trauma cases.

It helped to be able to speak different languages to calm the players

Keeping your mind at the pitch side

Knowing your athlete is key

Trauma and loss of life is a part of a medic’s job, it’s sobering and grounds your reference point.

How did Eva cope through the ordeal?

It’s taken time to overcoming the emotions

We need to be clearer about the non-negotiables

We do need to understand that medical governance is about justice

Football lives in a bubble at times

A new generation of players and managers that can change the culture

Allowing players to feel safe and to be able to speak – leads to better performance

A new style of leadership must arise

Safeguarding of athlete’s medical treatment is central to Eva’s cause.

How do you feel about the decisions that you make in a week, month, a year, 5 years

I need to be able to live with myself


Eva is on twitter at


and her medical practice


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