Sports medicine: The “miracle healer” Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt turns 80

Status: 08/12/2022 12:34 p.m

Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt is probably the best-known sports doctor in the world – he treated Bayern stars and Usain Bolt. His “wonder hands” made him a myth – but also brought him criticism. “Mull” celebrates its 80th birthday on Friday.

Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt once claimed that he used to run the 100 meters in eleven seconds. In order to believe him, it is enough to have seen the native East Frisian in action once. How he ran across the lawn at a full sprint, doctor’s bag in hand, his hair flying, while his physio tried desperately to somehow follow.

This is exactly the image most Bayern and national team fans have in their minds of “Doc”, who celebrates his 80th birthday on Friday.

“Genius” and Phenomenon” – Müller-Wohlfahrt

Former FC Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes calls Müller-Wohlfahrt a cult figure and describes “Mull” as “a phenomenon as a doctor and as a person.” Over the years, a real myth arose about the “miracle healer”. Bayern Honorary President Uli Hoeneß, who had already trusted the sports physician in the 1970s, says about him: “He’s a genius when it comes to recognizing muscle injuries, but also many other injuries.”

Hands more reliable than machines

Müller-Wohlfahrt himself says that he can see with his hands – he trusts his hands more than nuclear spin or ultrasound. Others report that he can miraculously feel injuries. He doesn’t use any machines for his diagnoses, he only uses them “for the insurance company, because they don’t believe that you can only diagnose with your hands”.

Müller-Wohlfahrt was repeatedly criticized for his treatment methods, and colleagues questioned his approach. “That may be all, but where is the evidence, the doctors ask me,” he explains in an interview with Stern. But the criticism is loudest because of his preference for the preparation Actovegin.

Criticism about the drug Actovegin

It promotes the growth and proliferation of muscle cells, but is not illegal unless injected intravenously. The application is controversial in medicine, especially in connection with top athletes. Travis Tygart, head of the US Anti-Doping Agency, once described the use of the drug as a “Frankenstein experiment”. Müller-Wohlfahrt told Stern that he would never use doping and never did in his life.

If a player takes stimulants, he is exhausted afterwards and suffers a drop in performance in the next game, Müller-Wohlfahrt explained in a 2018 “Zeit” interview. He was criticized for these statements by the doping agency NADA and the renowned Nuremberg anti-doping expert Fritz Sörgel, who said clearly: “Mull talks garbage.”

The “Doc” of the big sports stars

However, the criticism did not reduce Müller-Wohlfahrt’s professional success: the FC Bayern players and numerous world stars such as the multiple Olympic champion Usain Bolt relied and still rely on the seeing hands of the doctor: Usain Bolt dedicated his Olympic gold medals in 2016 and 2016 to his “wonderful doctor”. also gave him his world record shoes. Without his “doc” the super sprinter’s career would have ended earlier. Sports greats such as Boris Becker, Katarina Witt and Sven Hannawald were patients of Müller-Wohlfahrt.

Discord with Pep Guardiola

In April 2015, after almost 38 years at Bayern, Müller-Wohlfahrt resigned as team doctor. An era ended, at least for the time being. The reason: There is said to have been disagreement between the doctor and the then Bayern coach Pep Guardiola about the treatment and recovery times of the players. The Spaniard probably complained that players in his home country would be fit again much faster than in Munich. Then, in the spring of 2014, Thiago tore an inner ligament. He should be out for a maximum of two months.

That wasn’t fast enough for Thiago and Guardiola. So the player had cortisone and growth factors injected into the medial ligament by a Spanish doctor without permission. “Maybe a big mistake,” as Guardiola himself later admitted. Ultimately, Thiago injured himself again in the same place and was out for almost a year. Müller-Wohlfahrt didn’t feel understood by the Spanish coach: “I couldn’t understand that a coach who had as many years of life as I had at Bayern would not listen to me and my experience.”

Blaming Pep Guardiola

In mid-April 2015, there was a final rift between Müller-Wohlfahrt and Pep Guardiola. FC Bayern lost that Quarter-final first leg against FC Porto 1-3. Bastian Schweinsteiger, Medhi Benatia, Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, Javi Martinez and David Alaba were injured.

The Spanish coach blamed the medical department for the defeat: “I was loudly attacked in front of the assembled team and blamed for the many injuries. I was to blame for the physical condition of the players and ultimately for the defeat,” reported Müller-Wohlfahrt.

That was too much, the “Doc” decided to leave FC Bayern after almost four decades. But the story between the Munich kickers and Müller-Wohlfahrt was not yet over. In 2017, after Guardiola moved on to Manchester, the “miracle healer” returned again with coach Jupp Heynckes. For him, the comeback was “like coming back to a family.”

Final farewell to the DFB team and FC Bayern

In 2018, Müller-Wohlfahrt ended his career in the national team after 23 years, and two years later he finally retired from Bayern Munich. He still runs his practice in Munich’s old town today. The man with the seeing hands once explained that he was “driven”. Retirement has “no point” as long as it is asked. For him it is “always forward”. Still in full sprint at 80 years old.

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Source: BR24 08/12/2022 – 09:54 am