7.12.2020Bayer 04

Dr. Karl-Heinrich Dittmar – far more than a club doctor

Covid-19 has dominated Europe for almost a year. The coronavirus pandemic turned life on its head overnight in the spring of this year. And it had the same effect on the day-to-day work of Dr Karl-Heinrich Dittmar, the club doctor and head of the medical department at Bayer 04 Leverkusen.

"I've been the pandemics officer at Bayer 04 for five years. But that was more of a paper tiger – nobody actually expected it to be something serious," explained the 57-year-old in the latest 'Werks11 podcast'.

Since then, daily routine has changed dramatically for the trained surgeon, who has also run a group practice in the Leverkusen suburb of Quettingen for over two decades, "On the one hand, we had to help develop the hygiene protocols for the teams at Bayer 04 but we also have our own business, of course. A lot of people work here in different areas who we are also responsible for. We had to inform them and develop appropriate plans so they can continue to work safely," said Dittmar as he drew a positive assessment: "Up to now, everything has gone brilliantly. I have to praise the teams and the whole set-up – everybody is doing great in spite of the circumstances."

Since 2002 at the Werkself

The fact he is able to work for a Bundesliga side – and indeed for his favourite club – is described by the Leverkusen-born doctor as a "dream." His employment at the Werkself, initiated in 2002 by the then general manager Reiner Calmund, came about by chance. "Back then, his wife came to see me as a patient. I had a brain wave and I was really able to help her. Calli brought that up in another situation and hired me as a doctor at Bayer 04," said Dittmar who, at that time, had been a season ticket holder in B block at the BayArena for many years.

Back then it was only a part-time job – today, almost 20 years later, the Werkself club doctor has risen to be the director of the medical department at Bayer 04 and now manages 40 employees. The 'Werkstatt' training and rehabilitation centre he helped to develop is now known far and wide. "We have one of the biggest medical departments in the Bundesliga and are leading the way in Europe." Success for him does not just come from being up-to-date from a medical and sports science viewpoint but also primarily because, "I have outstanding members of staff who I am very proud of. I'm actually not an expert in any area. But I have a lot of experts around me and I give them the opportunity to demonstrate their strengths to the maximum."

"A transfer can't fail because of the medical side"

In his 18 years at Leverkusen, the father of four has not only seen a lot of players come and go but also experienced a lot of other events first hand – for example the bitter year of 2002 where the Werkself 'only' finished second in the Bundesliga, DFB Cup and Champions League. At the same time, 'Kalla' as he is called at Bayer 04, is absolutely aware of the importance of his employment. Above all, that includes the spontaneity and immediacy that sometimes comes with the job such as with transfers and the associated trips abroad. "Particularly with the transfers where you have to be a step ahead of the competition it can't fail because of the medical side," explained Dittmar. He has been to Brazil six times but only spent two nights there. Sometimes things have to happen very quickly. That makes it even better that for him work is still "huge fun" and he is able to deal with all the tasks with ease despite professional and private obligations…

The complete podcast with Dr. Karl-Heinrich Dittmar is available (in German) via the usual online providers –
on Soundcloud, iTunes or Spotify.

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