NFL, alumni group start neurological care program for retired players

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The NFL and the NFL Alumni Association have established a neurological care program for retired players.

Designed to address quality-of-life issues, the plan makes neurological specialists at five medical centers available to former players. NFL Alumni Association executive director George Martin said Wednesday that the doctors will evaluate and treat possible neurological conditions.

The participating medical centers are Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta; Mount Sinai in New York; Doctors of USC in Los Angeles; University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine; and Washington University School of Medicine/Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.

"It's a work in progress," Martin said. "This is a new era of collaboration between the NFL Alumni, the NFL and the commissioner's office."

The neurological program is available to retired players vested under the league's retirement plan. Those who have medical coverage will use their own plans for treatments. Players who cannot afford treatment can apply to the NFL Player Care Foundation for a grant to cover some or all of the costs.

"As long as they are still breathing, there is an opportunity for treatment and recovery," said Martin, a former New York Giants defensive end.

The plan is modeled on those used to help military veterans returning from combat.

"The way this problem manifests itself is totally unpredictable," said Martin, who noted that he was told of one former player whose neurological issues began when he couldn't find his car in a parking lot. "A lot of alumni are concerned that in the not-too-distant future they'll forget where they parked their car as a precursor to larger problems."

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Impetus for the program began when Martin was invited to testify before a Congressional committee in Washington.

"Not only did they want to understand there's a problem, they want to take steps to deal with this problem," he said.

Martin said the NFL Players Association isn't involved in the neurological plan.

"We've reached out to the union and will continue to do so," he said. "We know their retired players group has been active. We're looking forward to reaching out and becoming one."

A message left for the NFLPA by The Associated Press wasn't immediately answered.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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