Saying it wants to make football safer for current and future athletes, the NFL is pledging to spend $100 million for “independent medical research and engineering advancements.” A main goal will be to prevent and treat head injuries.
Announcing the pledge Wednesday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said it is in addition to the $100 million the league already committed toward medical research of brain injuries and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the progressive degenerative disease that has been found in football players.
The $100 million figure represents 1 percent of the roughly $10 billion in annual income that the league and its teams have been reported to make — including back in 2014, when an outside tax counsel for the NFL named that figure in an interview with NPR.
While he laid out new elements of a plan to make football safer, Goodell also acknowledged the game’s physical nature:
“Our game, of course, is a contact sport. Fans love to see the action on the field, including the big hits. While we can never completely eliminate the risk of injury, we are always striving to make the game safer — for our professional athletes down to young athletes first learning how to play.”
The new program comes as the league has dealt both with injuries on the field and with a large lawsuit by former players that was settled back in April for $1 billion. It requires the NFL to make different payments to players who have sustained varying levels of debilitating injury.
And in March, an NFL executive made waves for becoming the first league official to publicly state that football has been linked to chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
Announcing the new program, dubbed Play Smart, Play Safe, Goodell mentioned that the NFL had recently hired a full-time chief medical officer to coordinate best practices and information between the medical staff of teams and the NFL and the NFL Players Association.
In addition, Goodell said, the NFL is “establishing an independent, scientific advisory board comprising leading doctors, scientists and clinicians to engage in a clear process to identify and support the most compelling proposals for scientific research into concussions, head injuries and their long-term effects.”
Goodell also noted that one result of the increased emphasis on preventing head injuries is that “there may be an increase in reported concussions, as happened last season.”
While no one wants concussion numbers to rise, he said, the increase in self-reporting, screening and data collection will make preventive measures more reliable in the long run.
“This is an important culture change for all of us,” Goodell said.