Dr Jaime Figueroa Conde is the sports medicine specialist at Orthosports Medical Center and is using his profile – he used to be Resident Doctor at FC Barcelona – to help build business for the clinic. 

“Many of my clients ask me about Messi; I never get tired of answering their questions.”

Dr Jaime Figueroa Conde left FC Barcelona in 2016 but it has been impossible to close that chapter in his career. When you work closely with the likes of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar – people always want to talk about it.

Earlier this year, Conde was a marquee signing for Orthosports Medical Centre in Dubai. Following his spell as Resident Doctor at Barcelona he returned to in his native Mexico to work in rather more low key jobs with Coras FC and Venados FC, before being snapped up by Orthosports and moving his family to Dubai this year.

The Orthosports clinic was founded 18 years ago by Dr Moosa Kazim and has been one of the leading sports medicine facilities in the region since. With the medical market in the UAE so competitive, companies are constantly searching for an advantage to help them stand out. That is why Conde’s arrival has been a major coup for Orthosports.

It appears the opportunity to boast to friends about seeing a doctor who treated Messi is a powerful draw for potential customers.

“Everyone at Barcelona strives for excellence and it as a lesson I have taken with me,” Conde tells Sport Industry Insider. “Barcelona is synonymous with quality so of course, I think people will be attracted to medical staff who worked there too.

“People here in the UAE – both expats and Emiratis – love football. I think many research their doctors and when they come they often say, ‘Oh, so you are the doctor that was in Barcelona?’ If it has helped Orthosports to get new patients that is great, but even before I was here the clinic has had a great reputation.”

Conde has spent much of his career treating professional athletes, but now 80 percent of his clients are amateurs. It has been a challenging transition but one he has enjoyed.

“All my life I was working in clubs so I had all of the infrastructure and support,” Conde explains. “When you’re working in a team it’s very different than working a clinic; here you have the nurses and then the patient that comes in and you have to remember their history. It’s not quite as fluid a relationship.

“Whereas at a club you work day in, day out with players and their medical history is engrained in your mind. You know what the risks are for each player.

“It’s a different environment but many of the injuries I am treating are familiar because I still have a lot of football players here; both amateurs and professionals come here. It is very enjoyable because treating different kinds of people gives your practice a bigger scope. For this I am grateful.”

Word of Conde’s arrival spread quickly through the UAE’s amateur and professional sports ranks and the doctor believes that even in the digital age, person to person referrals is still the most effective way of capturing new business.

“Direct recommendations are still an incredibly powerful way of attracting clients. Particularly as we are dealing with men and women who play team sports. If they get injured and receive excellent care from Orthosports, they will tell their team-mates, their family members to go to Orthosports.

“Of course, social media has helped speed up this process a little and these platforms are now an important part of the referrals we get. Orthosports uses Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as a way to market the clinic – we have videos, photos, doctor profiles. This is vital for us too.”

Orthosports has traditionally focused on the domestic market but Conde suggests that as the UAE becomes a more popular medical tourism destination, international marketing should be part and parcel of the clinic’s approach.

“This is a huge potential growth area, not just for Orthosports but for all the clinics and hospitals in the UAE. We have a lot of great doctors and great facilities here but only a few are attracting medical tourists right now.

“On the elite side of things, Dubai is a fantastic place to do your rehab. You have the climate, world-class sporting facilities. It can be hard because players are told they can only use their club’s recommended doctors. But in spite of this we still have professional players coming to see us quietly here. Maybe they come for Christmas or on holiday but still want to be seen by a doctor. Obviously I can’t reveal any names!

“We could definitely do more to grow sports medical tourism – both with elite and amateur players – and I think the UAE government is helping by making it easier for people to travel here. For example in my country Mexico you previously had to spend a long time and lots of money getting a UAE visa. Now you don’t need this.

“Already we have many people coming to us from other Middle East countries – from Egypt or Kuwait or Saudi Arabia. But I think we can open it up even further.”

The UAE’s increasing dedication to health and fitness has been beneficial for its citizens’ wellbeing – but also for the business of sports medicine professionals. As more people take up sport, there are more people picking up injuries. For Conde, this is a small price to pay for a positive upward curve.

“A lot is being done to encourage people to be more active, including the Dubai Fitness Challenge obviously. There are also big sporting events like the FIFA  Club World Cup and the AFC Asian Cup. These are very good as a spectacle but are also very good motivation for do some exercise.

Because we’re having more of fitness culture here, everyone wants to be active. Of course gthis meant we saw more people coming in to us with injuries during the Dubai Fitness Challenge. It is an inevitable side-effect of more people exercising but it is a good sign that people are taking their health seriously.”

The health of Orthosports’ business is also firmly on Conde’s agenda and he is aiming to get the message out there that sport-specific treatment is easier to access than many might think.

“We’re trying to do some educational talks and networking about what sports medicine actually is. It is not only traumatology but is also maybe cardiology, exercise stress testing, nutrition, anti-doping. It’s a complete science, it’s not only the injuries.

I think the market here can be a little tough because people are more used to going to the general orthopedic doctor to review their sports injuries. People think that sports medicine is only for elite athletes but in reality it is here on their doorstep if they want it.”