NFL Announces Expansion Of Its Initiative Increasing Diversity In Sports Medicine

NFL Announces Expansion Of Its Initiative Increasing Diversity In Sports Medicine

The National Football League has announced the league-wide expansion of its Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative.

According to an NFL release, the NFL, the NFL Physicians Society (NFLPS), and the Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society (PFATS) have collaborated on the effort. The initiative allows medical students across the U.S. to complete one-month clinical rotations with one of the NFL’s 32 medical staff. The initiative, which started last year, aims to increase the number and diversity of students interested in sports medicine.

Last year’s inaugural class comprised 14 students from four HBCU medical schools, including the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, Howard University College of Medicine, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Meharry Medical College. Students in the program completed rotations with eight NFL teams. This year’s program will be expanded to pair students from 19 medical schools with NFL clubs.

“Working toward diverse representation across all roles in our league continues to be a top priority and this program helps us make a tangible impact to grow and bolster a pipeline of diverse sports medicine professionals,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “We know that diversity makes us stronger at every level, and we look forward to welcoming the 2023 class to our player care teams at clubs across the league.”

Diversity in sports medicine-focused physicians is historically underrepresented; however, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), diversity in sports medicine is increasing, and during the 2022-23 academic year, “the number of Black or African American matriculants increased by 9%,” and “matriculants who are Hispanic, Latino, or of Spanish origin increased by 4%.”

Participating schools in this year’s program include Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Georgetown University School of Medicine, Michigan State University School of Human Medicine, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Sidney Kimmel Medical College-Jefferson Medical, Stanford University Medical School, University at Buffalo’s Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, University of Kansas School of Medicine, the University of Minnesota Medical School, University of Nevada Las Vegas School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville, McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, University of Washington School of Medicine, and Wake Forest School of Medicine.

“I am so grateful I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to participate in this program. I learned something valuable from everyone on the medical team of physicians, athletic trainers, strength & conditioning coaches, psychologists, and nutritionists,” said Dr. Kayla Thomas, a 2022 Pipeline Initiative participant who worked with the New York Giants. “I hope the NFL continues to incorporate more schools and teams to allow students to experience the intricacies of sports medicine.”

Future expansion plans for the program include adding more medical disciplines such as physician assistants, certified athletic trainers, physical therapists, occupational therapists, nutritionists, and behavioral health clinicians.