For this year's NFL team medical staff, four students from historically black colleges and universities will be selected to participate in clinical rotations.
The joint program with NFL Physicians Society, (NFLPS), and Professional Football Athletic Trainer Society(PFATS) aims at diversifying the sports medicine pipeline, including at NFL clubs. The program is open to medical students who are interested in primary care sports medicine and/or ortho surgery at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, Los Angeles; Howard University College of Medicine and Atlanta; Morehouse School of Medicine and Nashville; and Meharry College in Nashville.
Dr. Digna Forbes is the interim dean at Meharry's school of medicine. “We always have students who are interested in sports medicine and orthopedic surgery.” “The more opportunities that we have for sub specialties, the higher the diversity in those. This is crucial.
“It's an occasion to showcase our medical students. They have been going all across the country for these subspecialties but with the NFL so high profile and to diversify the (medical] positions in the NFL it would be great if the doctors treating them were also diverse.”
An analysis of diversity in medical student populations revealed that Black medical students only 7.3% of this nation's total. This number has increased less than 1% in 40 years, and is much lower than the 13.4% Black populace in the United States. Nearly 70% of NFL players are Black.
The inaugural program will see 16 students participate, with two students from each of eight participating NFL clubs, including the Falcons, Bengals Chargers Rams, Rams Rams, Giants and 49ers as well as the Titans and Commanders.
In 2023, the program will grow to recruit students from more medical disciplines and academic institutions. They will be placed with more medical staffs. The next year's expansion will include additional disciplines, including orthopedic surgery and primary care sports medicine.
Students will be able to work with the primary care team physicians, orthopedic team physicians, and athletic trainers this season to acquire basic medical knowledge as well as exposure to sports medicine. They will be taught how to return players to play and what on-field treatment is available. It is possible to observe games from the sidelines.
“A day would include time with the athletic training team, observing treatments, assessments, and rehabilitation care,” stated Dr. Allen Sills (the NFL's chief medical officers). “They will also meet team physicians to learn how they diagnose injury rehab. They might attend an athletic procedure. They would then be attending a team practice.
“All of these elements allow them understand the work of the entire athletic trainer staff and the way that the medical team works together.”
Sills says diversity is a concern in medicine. NFLPS President Timothy McAdams concurs.
McAdams stated, “We have significant work ahead of us to ensure that our NFLPS membership closely mirrors the player populations we treat every day.”‘ head physician. It all starts here by expanding the network and encouraging medical students of diverse backgrounds to explore the possibility of a career as a sports physician.