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NFL And NFL PLayers' Association Unveil Mental Health Initiative

May 24, 2019

The NFL and NFL Players Association (NFLPA) this week announced joint agreements that will support further resources directed to address behavioral and mental health with programs dedicated to education, prevention, and overall behavioral health throughout the league.

First, the NFL and NFLPA will work together to address the challenges of pain management for current players and work to advance and understand the science in this area to improve potential treatments. The second agreement builds on the substantial player behavioral and mental health care resources available to NFL players with additional programs directed toward education, prevention, and overall behavioral health throughout the league.

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.

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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.

The NFL and NFLPA will also 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.

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The Joint Committee will 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.

This summer, the NFL and NFLPA will convene sessions with head team physicians, head team internal medicine physicians, head athletic trainers, Behavioral Health Team Clinicians, Pain Management Specialists, and others to discuss the requirements in both agreements, among other topics. Adherence to both agreements is mandatory across all clubs.

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