Pro Football Hall of Fame Forms Behavioral Health Program for Players, Their Families

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVMay 6, 2021

CANTON, OH - AUGUST 04: A general view of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Museum on August 04, 2018, at Tom Benson Hall Of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio. (Photo by Daniel Kucin Jr./Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Daniel Kucin Jr./Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pro Football Hall of Fame is launching a behavioral health program to help current and former players and their families with mental and behavioral health issues.

The Associated Press' Barry Wilner provided the details of the project:

"Hall of Fame Behavioral Health will offer a concierge call center and crisis line to match treatment and counseling services with an accredited network of providers nationwide. Providers are trained to handle issues such as post-career transition, identity, addiction, performance anxiety, mindfulness, and the culture of sports. Such services will complement existing programs and assistance available to players through the NFL and NFLPA."

The program has the backing of Hall of Famers like Ronnie Lott, Brian Dawkins, Steve Atwater, Andre Reed and Tim Brown, as well as some current players and the president of the Hall of Fame, David Baker.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and the NFL on Tuesday released the first video in a series to recognize the occasion. Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa, Atlanta Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst and Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. were among the players to discuss their mental health:


The NFL Family is committed to prioritizing and destigmatizing mental health. This May, NFL players will share ways they care for their emotional wellbeing. Read: https://t.co/RlrDnMpGNk<br> <br>For more information or to seek help: https://t.co/NLwmIMDBdD #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth pic.twitter.com/nV7qOFhTJM

Dallas Cowboys star Dak Prescott was even more candid in a September interview with Graham Bensinger, speaking openly about his brother Jace's suicide, which affected him deeply and exacerbated a feeling of unease that grew with the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"All throughout this quarantine and this offseason, I started experiencing emotions I’ve never felt before," Prescott said. "Anxiety for the main one. And then, honestly, a couple of days before my brother passed, I would say I started experiencing depression. And to the point of, I didn’t want to work out anymore. I didn’t know necessarily what I was going through, to say the least, and hadn’t been sleeping at all."

Following the Cowboys' 40-39 win over the Falcons in Week 2 of the 2020 season, Hurst reached out to Prescott on the field to thank him for opening up about his mental health: 

Atlanta Falcons @AtlantaFalcons

A mutual respect. @Haydenrhurst and @dak have a tremendous amount of courage. 🤝<br><br>📹 Full Micd Up: https://t.co/Mq7QlEyaJD pic.twitter.com/eLTdeu627V

Addressing mental health concerns is particularly acute for football players given the research and discoveries about the long-term impacts of concussions and repetitive hits to the head.

Harvard's Football Players Health Study found in 2019 that players who reported experiencing more concussion-related symptoms during their playing careers "were significantly more likely to report having cognitive impairment, depression, and anxiety later in life."

The likelihood of a player suffering from depression also grew 9 percent for every five years he spent in the league.