NFL, NCAA Medical Experts Partner to Work on Improving Safety of Football

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistJune 19, 2019

The NFL logo is seen during the NFL football owners meeting on Wednesday, May 22, 2019, in Key Biscayne, Fla. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

Executives and medical personnel from both the NFL and NCAA met Monday and Tuesday to share data with an eye toward improving safety in football.

According to the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com), the meetings took place in Indianapolis and were spearheaded by Dr. Allen Sills and NFL Executive Vice President for Health and Safety Initiatives Jeff Miller.

The meetings reportedly marked the "most formal" discussion and exchange of information between the NFL and NCAA regarding injury data and prevention to date.

Sills further explained the nature of the meetings and expressed hope that they can continue in even greater detail moving forward:

"We're able to show them what we're working on and what we're finding and how we're applying that knowledge into the day-to-day care of professional athletes. I think we hope this is the start of even more regular interaction between the two organizations because we share the exact same goals, which is improving the health and safety of players."

While much of the focus regarding football injuries has been on concussions in recent years because of the prevalence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in the brains of deceased football players, Sills and Miller aimed to expand their research.

Specifically, Miller said they looked at lower-body injuries in an effort to determine what can be done to lessen their frequency, citing cleats, playing surfaces, training schedules and workload as potential factors.

Concussions can have a long-lasting devastating impact, but lower-body injuries such as torn ACLs cost players a significant amount of time on a yearly basis in both the NFL and college football.

Sills believes there is a great deal of value in the NFL looping in medical experts attached to the college game since it helps provide a far larger sample size to those in charge of improving safety:

"We know that our knowledge is expanding rapidly and there are many things we can learn from each other. There's a lot of potential for collaboration around the research questions we're both working on. For example, we have a major research effort around playing surfaces and how cleats interact with playing surfaces. We can look at 1,800 athletes in the NFL, but imagine the power of being able to expand those observations to a number of NCAA athletes. That's going to allow you to reach conclusions a lot quicker and with more power because we'll have more athletes."

Both the NFL and college football have made significant rule changes in recent years to protect players, especially on kick returns. The college game has also instituted and refined the targeting rule to further discourage hits to the head, while the NFL uses a version of the regulation as well.

Based on the information being shared, it is possible that the college and NFL rules could become even more uniform moving forward should it benefit the players and their health.