NASHVILLE – The NFL on Tuesday announced the launch of the NFL Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative, which will provide medical students at the four Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) medical schools with the opportunity to complete a clinical rotation with NFL club medical staff.
Students from Nashville's Meharry Medical College will be among those participating in this inaugural season, with the Titans.
Medical students interested in primary care sports medicine and/or orthopedic surgery from Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, Howard University College of Medicine and Morehouse School of Medicine have also been selected to complete one-month clinical rotations with NFL clubs during the 2022 NFL season.
Two students from each school will participate in the program, joining eight participating clubs such as the Titans, Falcons, Bengals, Chargers, Rams, Giants, 49ers and Commanders.
In 2023, the program will expand to recruit students from additional academic institutions and medical disciplines and place those students with medical staffs at more NFL clubs.
"We are grateful the NFL is taking measurable steps to diversify the league and specifically recognizes the barriers to opportunity many minority students face in sports medicine career paths," said Dr. James E. K. Hildreth, president and CEO of Meharry Medical College. "Through this partnership, our students will be afforded the opportunity for exposure to a unique field of medicine that will create new meaningful experiences beneficial to their career advancement."
The NFL, together with the NFL Physicians Society (NFLPS) and the Professional Football Athletic Trainer Society (PFATS), announced the launch of the NFL Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative on Tuesday.
The program aims to increase and diversify the pipeline of students interested in pursuing careers in sports medicine to help make a positive impact in the field and, over time, help to diversify NFL club medical staff.
Per a release from the NFL, a study that examines diversity of the medical student population shows Black medical students comprise only 7.3 percent of the total medical school population in the U.S. – a figure that has risen less than 1 percent over the last 40 years and is far lower than the 13.4 percent Black population in the United States.
"Increasing diversity across every role in our league and at our clubs is essential. Diversity makes us stronger," said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. "We have an opportunity to help increase the pipeline of diverse sports medicine professionals, which is imperative for us as a league. This initiative is an example of how we can lend our platform for a societal benefit. I'm proud that our league can help inspire the next generation of sports medicine professionals."
During their rotations, students will observe and participate in the care of sports medicine patients in NFL club settings, according to a release from the NFL. Students will work directly with and under the supervision of the orthopedic team physicians, primary care team physicians and athletic trainers to gain basic medical knowledge and exposure to patient care in sports medicine. Additionally, students will become familiar with return-to-play guidelines and on-field treatment considerations for NFL players. Students may also have the opportunity to attend home games and be present on the sideline for observation. By the end of the rotation, students will understand the basic elements of all facets of care provided to NFL players from an orthopedic, primary care sports medicine and athletic training perspective.
"This unique collaboration between the HBCU Medical Schools, the NFL, NFL Physicians Society and the Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society will provide a potentially once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for students to experience, learn, and develop sports medicine skills in a real environment with world-class sports teams and sports medicine professionals," noted Dr. Lisa Barkley, the Family Medicine Department Chair at Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles who also heads up the university's sports medicine program. "Developing medical professionals from traditionally underrepresented communities is an important, valuable, and notably proactive step towards addressing diversity issues across the field of sports medicine."