The NFL has long been accused of not taking the issues of concussion and the mental state of its athletes seriously enough. In an effort to correct this the NFL has introduced new rules which directly influence these issues. The league announced that they will require every team to employ a mental health professional to work in its building. These individuals will be required to be available to players at the facility at least 8-12 hours per week and conduct mandatory educational sessions for coaches and players. The Clinician will also be required to compose a Mental Health Emergency Action Plan for the 2019 season. This will provide a safe environment for players and staff members to be able to seek help out of the spotlight.
Both the league and union will work together to address pain management for current players. The second agreement builds on the mental health care resources that are afforded to players with an emphasis on programs aiming for education, prevention and behavioural health.
The issue of mental health is one that has been deeply rooted in sports and in society with more people speaking out every day. Recently researchers have discovered that concussions and brain trauma which are common in the game of American Football can actually lead to severe mental health issues as players age.
There have been instances of mental health problems in former football players that made headlines. Junior Seau (Pictured Below), a former player for the San Diego Chargers and New England Patriots to name a few, committed suicide in 2012 and his autopsy revealed a brain disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
Seau’s depression was not an isolated incident; former Philadelphia Eagles Star Andre Waters committed suicide in 2006 at the age of only 44. His autopsy revealed that his brain had so much damage it resembled an 85-year-old man with Alzheimer’s disease. Waters’ head injuries throughout his career most likely contributed to his depression and severe brain damage.
It’s a small step for the NFL to introduce these measures but an extremely important one as the mental state of athletes continues to become a big priority. Just by acknowledging that more needs to be done and the need from creating a safer environment for players to talk and seek help the NFL will tackle the issue head-on.