The Comprehensive Mental Health and Wellness Committee is comprised of experts appointed by the league and the NFLPA. The Committee develops educational programs for players, coaches, club personnel, and players’ family members regarding mental health and wellness. The Committee also collaborates with local and national mental health and suicide prevention organizations to reduce stigma related to mental health and promote suicide prevention and awareness. The committee develops models of player programming for specific needs including: transiting in and out of the NFL, social connectedness and resilience, navigating injury, and promoting peer support. Sub-committees for education, partnerships, and program evaluation convene regularly to develop and oversee specific initiatives.
- Normalize accessing behavioral health resources to players, and all members of the player ecosystem, including staff and significant others
- Increase utilization of behavioral health resources
- Create tailored behavioral health programming specific to the player journey (both within and away from the team)
- Assist in fostering a club culture that ensures a community-wide, holistic approach to care
- Establish effective partnerships with local and national organizations to assist in programming and stigma reduction efforts
Areas of Focus
- Developing and scheduling educational programs for coaches, players, and club staff
- Developing programming for families and significant others
- Developing criteria for identifying local and national suicide prevention and mental health organizations for collaboration purposes
- Developing models of player programming for specific needs including: transitioning in and out of the NFL, social connectedness and resilience, injured players, and peer support
- Thom Mayer, MD, FACEP, FAAPDr. Thom Mayer is the Medical Director of the NFL Players Association, a position he assumed at the request of Gene Upshaw on the day Korey Stringer, a tackle for the Minnesota Vikings, passed away from heat stroke. The NFLPA had never before had a Medical Director. Under the leadership of current NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith, Dr. Mayer and his team pioneered a new era in assuring that the health and safety of NFL athletes are protected. Heat illness, traumatic brain injuries, cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal injuries, and strength training are all now subject to strict guidelines. In this critical role for the NFLPA, he has become one of the most trusted and widely-respected physicians in sports medicine. He is also recognized as an expert in emergency medicine, pediatric emergency medicine, trauma and healthcare leadership. With regard to sports medicine, leadership development, service excellence and patient flow, he is the most respected and widely known emergency physician in the nation. Dr. Mayer has published over 90 articles, 100 book chapters, and has edited 15 textbooks. He has spoken at over 200 national and international conferences on sports medicine and emergency medicine. On September 11, 2001 Dr. Mayer served as one of the Command Physicians at the Pentagon Rescue Operation, coordinating medical assets at the site. The BestPractices physicians at Inova Fairfax Hospital were the first to successfully diagnose and treat inhalational anthrax victims during the fall 2001 anthrax crises, and Dr. Mayer has served the Department of Defense on Defense Science Board Task Forces on Bioterrorism, Homeland Security, and consequences of Weapons of Mass Destruction. His expertise and insights in crisis management are thus informed by hard-won experience. Dr. Mayer’s academic appointments are as Clinical Professor of Emergency Medicine at the George Washington and Senior Lecturing Fellow, Duke University School of Medicine.
- Allen Sills, MD, FACSDr. Allen Sills is the NFL’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO), a full-time position dedicated to advancing the health and safety of the sport of football. He became the NFL’s first CMO in March 2017, joining the league from Vanderbilt University Medical Center. As a neurosurgeon specializing in the treatment of athletes, Dr. Sills continues to serve at Vanderbilt as a Professor of Neurological Surgery and the Founder and Co-Director of the Vanderbilt Sports Concussion Center. As the NFL’s CMO, Dr. Sills works closely with team medical staffs across the league, the NFL Players Association and its advisors, and the many medical and scientific experts who comprise the NFL’s medical committees. He coordinates with these medical experts to lead the league’s efforts to make advances, on and off the field, to protect players from unnecessary risk through rule changes, evolution of equipment, and robust injury reduction plans. Dr. Sill spearheaded the league’s Injury Reduction Plan—a three-pronged approach aiming to reduce the incidence of concussions—which led to a 24 percent drop in reported concussions during the 2018 season. The 2019 season saw reported concussion numbers remain statistically similar. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Sills has led the NFL’s response, coordinating with the NFLPA, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), NFL Medical Committee members, and the NFL and NFLPA’s experts at Infection Control for Sports (“ICS”) (formerly known as the Duke Infection Control Outreach Network or “DICON”). Their recommendations have informed the development of the league’s COVID-related player safety protocols—from testing and exposure mitigation to equipment and medical ethics—which meet or exceed state and local orders. Dr. Sills is an active researcher, having published over 170 scientific articles and presentations, including over 40 in the last five years on the topic of sports concussion. He is a member of the Concussion in Sport Group, which publishes international standards regarding concussion in sport. Dr. Sills is also a fellow of the American Board of Neurological Surgery and the American College of Surgeons. Before joining the NFL, Dr. Sills served as a consulting neurosurgeon for the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, the NHL’s Nashville Predators, the US Equestrian Foundation, and the athletic programs at Vanderbilt University, Belmont University and Mississippi State University. He also served as an Unaffiliated Neurotrauma Consultant on the NFL sidelines, and as a neurological consultant to the NCAA and the International Equestrian Foundation (FEI). Dr. Sills previously served as the Founder and Executive Director of the Memphis Regional Brain Tumor Center; the Director of the Neuroscience Institute at Methodist University Hospital, Memphis; an Associate Professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee, Memphis and the Semmes-Murphey Clinic; and as Chief of the Division of Neurosurgery at the Memphis Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Dr. Sills graduated summa cum laude from Mississippi State University with a degree in engineering and received his medical degree from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, where he also went on to complete his internship in General Surgery, his residency training in Neurological Surgery and an NIH-funded Neuro-Oncology Fellowship. He serves on the Board of Directors for Make-A-Wish Foundation of Middle Tennessee, the Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County Tennessee, and has served as a youth baseball coach for more than 20 years. Dr. Sills and his wife Shawne live in Tennessee and have four children.
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- Nyaka NiiLampti, PhDNyaka NiiLampti, Ph.D. is currently the Vice President of Wellness and Clinical Services for the National Football League. In her role, she is responsible for implementing and expanding the Total Wellness platform, ensuring a holistic approach to the care of players and members of the NFL family. The goal of the Total Wellness platform includes overall wellness, family safety, healthy lifestyle development, and transition support through clinical resources, education and awareness efforts, peer-to-peer connections, research, and an overall proactive approach. Through a series of touchpoints, Dr. NiiLampti is charged with developing, managing, and promoting all aspects of this platform along a variety of internal and external stakeholders: active players and Legends, NFL club and League staff, player support systems, governing bodies, and the broader community. Nyaka is a licensed psychologist with twenty years of clinical experience, and has worked extensively with organizations, sports teams, individuals, and families in a variety of settings, including community mental health, college counseling centers, and in private practice. She most recently served as the Director of Player Wellness for the NFL Players Association, where she focused on providing resources and educating players on all aspects of wellness and served as an advocate for players by ensuring their rights are protected under the NFL Drug Policies. Before joining the NFLPA, Dr. NiiLampti was a tenure-track Assistant Professor of Psychology at Queens University of Charlotte, where she taught undergraduate courses in multiple areas and served as the Faculty Athletic Representative to the NCAA. During that time, she also provided comprehensive services in private practice, focused primarily on athlete wellbeing and performance-related concerns as well as serving as a Treating Clinician for the NFL Program for Substances of Abuse and as an approved clinician for the NBA/NBPA Player Assistance/Anti-Drug Program. Her research interests focused on multiculturalism and mental health, particularly as those concepts relate to issues of resiliency and success, and she provided local and national trainings, workshops, and lectures on a variety of topics including aspects of cultural diversity and identity, athletes and mental health, and student-athlete transition. A former track and field college student-athlete, Nyaka has a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University, an M.A. with a concentration in Sport Psychology from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and a Ph.D. from Temple University.
- Amber Cargill, PsyD
- Sidney Hankerson, MD, MBADr. Hankerson is a Co-Director of the Columbia University Wellness Center and Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Columbia University, Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. He has been awarded over $1 Million in grant funding from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Brain and Behavior Foundation, New York State Office of Mental Health, and private foundations to increase mental health literacy, reduce stigma, and increase access to mental health services in communities of color. Dr. Hankerson is a certified instructor in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), an evidence-based mental health literacy training and has delivered this training to men, clergy, community members with serious mental illness, and healthcare professionals. He has been a keynote or featured speaker at the White House Dialogue on Men’s Health, the White House Making Healthcare Better Series, the NCAA Student-Athlete Mental Health Symposium, the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI), and the National Council for Behavioral Health. He also worked with retired NFL player, Dwight Hollier, to implement a program focused on reducing depression stigma among men. Dr. Hankerson published the first-ever depression screening study in African American Churches. This study found higher rates of depression among men compared to women. As a panelist for the White House ‘Making Healthcare Better Series,’ he highlighted how engaging multiple levels (e.g., community settings like barber shops, family members, policy-makers) increase awareness and access to mental health care. He was appointed to the American Psychiatric Association Council for Minority Health and Health Disparities and the inaugural APA Council of Faith and Community Partnerships. As a clinician, Dr. Hankerson provides direct psychiatric care to patients at a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) in Harlem, New York.
- George Wrighster