By Kate Arhar // @ClvlndK8
Injuries have been a huge part of life for NFL players. Whether they occur as a result of on- or off-the-field activites, they impact the sport we all love.
In recent years, we’ve seen how these injuries not only impact current seasons, but how these players face life-long issues or disabilities as a result of they playing days.
On Monday, the NFL and NFL Players Association announced two joint agreements that will support further resources directed to address pain management and behavioral health.
The first agreement on focuses on prescription medication and pain management. It addresses the challenges of pain management for current players and works to advance and understand the science in this area to improve potential treatments.
The second agreement builds on the ever increasing reports of player behavioral and mental health issues by providing care resources with additional programs directed toward education, prevention, and overall behavioral health throughout the league.
Below are the details as released by the NFL and the NFLPA:
Prescription Medication and Pain Management
The NFL and NFLPA will form a Joint Pain Management Committee including medical experts appointed by both the league and union,which will establish uniform standards for club practices and policies regarding pain management and the use of prescription medication by NFL players as well as conduct research concerning pain management and alternative therapies. The Joint Committee will also receive periodic reports from a newly-developed Prescription Drug Monitoring Program that will monitor all prescriptions issued to NFL players by club physicians and unaffiliated physicians. Prior to the start of the 2019 NFL Season, each NFL club must appoint a Pain Management Specialist who possesses certain agreed-upon credentials, including active engagement in pain management as part of his or her medical practice.
NFL and NFLPA, who usually can’t agree on color of the sky, agree to “conduct research concerning pain management and alternative therapies.” Likely a precursor to greater acceptance of marijuana for pain, as so many states allow. Again, adapt or die.
— Andrew Brandt (@AndrewBrandt) May 20, 2019
Behavioral and Mental Health Care
The NFL and NFLPA will form a Comprehensive Mental Health and Wellness Committee, which will develop educational programs for players, coaches, club personnel and players’ family members regarding mental health and wellness. Additionally, the Committee will collaborate with local and national mental health and suicide prevention organizations to reduce stigma related to mental health and promote suicide prevention and awareness. The NFL and NFLPA will also now formally mandate that each team retains a Behavioral Health Team Clinician focused on supporting players’ emotional and mental health and well-being. Each Team Clinician must possess certain minimum qualifications and be retained and jointly approved by the NFL and NFLPA by the start of Training Camp for the 2019 season. The Team Clinician is required to be available to players at the team facility for at least 8-12 hours per week, and must, among other responsibilities, conduct mandatory mental health educational sessions for players and coaching staff. The Clinician must also create and conduct team rehearsals of a Mental Health Emergency Action Plan to implement for the upcoming season.
Wellness is king ? Proud to announce during #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth that we’re starting two initiatives with @nfl on pain management and caring for behavioral & mental health. https://t.co/iYlrLRSwyo
— NFLPA (@NFLPA) May 20, 2019
What I find most interesting – and most optimistic – about these agreements is that adherence is mandatory for all teams. There are even sessions planned for this summer with team physicians, trainers, etc., to meet with behavioral health and pain management specialists that are not employed by the NFL. This should give them an unbiased view of the real dangers the players face if steps are not taken now in order to keep them safe, both physically and mentally, going forward.
I hope these are just the first steps towards overall improvement of healthcare for these athletes. I love the game of football but I also want these men to be as safe and healthy as possible!
Talk football with Kate on Twitter // @ClvlndK8