The NFL is advised by many of the world’s preeminent experts in medicine and science. Specialists in a wide variety of disciplines relevant to player health and safety volunteer their time to explore groundbreaking research and make recommendations for how the League can continually improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of injuries as well as invest in scientific research to promote player health and safety.
The NFL medical committees meet throughout the year to review player health and injury data and determine what policies, programs and protocols should be adopted by the League.
The diligent work of the committees normally begins in the spring at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis before the NFL draft introduces a new class of eligible players to the League. Members take this opportunity to gather for the first of several meetings throughout the year to analyze injury data from the previous season. The committees discuss statistical trends, identify outliers in the data, debate reasons for the numbers and ask important questions that need further analysis and reporting.
They also form judgments that are shared with the competition committee and the NFL about potential changes that need to be made to the rules or to medical protocols or practices.
These discussions last long after the initial annual meetings in Indianapolis and lead to a year-long effort to make the game safer.
The men and women on these committees comprise a wide range of perspectives and expertise on some of our players’ most challenging health issues. They are not employed by the NFL and most receive no compensation for their involvement other than a small honorarium (less than $1500), typical in the medical field for volunteer efforts like serving on a medical committee or advisory board, and reimbursement of travel expenses for attending committee meetings.
An overarching Health and Safety Committee—including chairs of the General Medical Committee, the Head, Neck and Spine Committee and the Musculoskeletal Committee—oversees committee efforts and facilitates cross-specialization and discussion among subject matter experts, team physicians and athletic trainers.
Two new committees were formed by the NFL and NFLPA in 2019. A joint NFL-NFLPA Pain Management Committee works to establish uniform standards for club practices and policies regarding pain management and the use of prescription medications by NFL players. A joint NFL-NFLPA Comprehensive Mental Health and Wellness Committee is charged with developing mental health educational programs for players and their families, coaches, and club personnel, as well as collaborating with local and national mental health organizations to promote mental health related stigma reduction.
An ad hoc committee of equipment and field managers focuses on keeping game day surfaces safe—bolstering the league’s commitment to injury protection on the field. In the league’s ongoing mission to make the game safer for those who play it, each and every medical committee includes participation by representatives from the NFL Players Association (NFLPA), including its long-time Medical Director, Dr. Thom Mayer.
Below is an overview of how the NFL’s medical committees are organized.