Associated Press: NFL’s first medical summit brought teams together to collaborate on improving player safety

Apr 15, 2024

The NFL has implemented new rules, banned another type of tackle and introduced equipment aimed toward improving player safety.

Keeping players healthy has been a priority for a league that had so many star players suffer significant injuries in 2023. Aaron Rodgers, Joe Burrow, Kirk Cousins and Justin Herbert — four franchise quarterbacks — combined to miss 36 games. They were just a handful of the high-profile players to finish the season on injured reserve, though overall, NFL players missed a combined total of 700 fewer games in 2023 than in 2022.

Figuring out the best ways to help players stay on the field is a collaborative effort for the league and its teams, so the NFL last month held a combined medical summit believed to be the first of its kind in any sport.

While owners, general managers and coaches gathered for the league’s annual spring meeting at a resort 18 miles away, more than 400 athletic trainers, equipment managers, strength and conditioning coaches, nutrition experts and sports science directors came together to learn from each other and from the league’s research partners.

“It’s not just team doctors or athletic trainers, all these different disciplines really see themselves as part of our health and safety effort,” Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, told the AP. “Clubs see themselves very holistically and nowadays, as coaches start to plan practice schedules and start to plan training camp, they really engage these different disciplines and they do it through the lens of what might be driving injury.

“Obviously, coaches want to get their teams ready to play, but they also want to make sure they’re as healthy as possible. And so that’s really where we’re looking at these interventions. How can we collectively, whether it’s through our medical care or equipment or nutrition or strength and conditioning efforts, what do we do collectively that increases player availability and reliability?”

Injury prevention was a major focus of the four-day summit that featured members of the Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society, the Professional Football Equipment Managers Society, the Professional Football Performance Coaches Association and the Professional Football Registered Dietitian Society.