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NFL Health Update: Roger Goodell, Bears host moms safety clinic


NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Chicago Bears Chairman George H. McCaskey and American cardiothoracic surgeon, author, and television personality DR. Mehmet Oz hosted more than 200 Illinois mothers at the first NFL team-hosted Moms Football Safety Clinic, which took place at the Walter Payton Center at Halas Hall.

The two-hour clinic included a town hall, providing participants an opportunity to ask Commissioner Goodell and Dr. Oz questions. The attendees rotated through stations on topics important to youth safety in sports, including:

  • Concussion Awareness with Dr. Elizabeth Pieroth, neuropsychologist at NorthShore University HealthSystem and consultant for several, Chicago-based professional sports teams.
  • Parental engagement with Jane Skinner, Former Fox News Channel news anchor and wife of Commissioner Goodell, Brittney Payton, Host of Chicago's Best on WGN-TV; Contributor for "NFL AM" on NFL Network; daughter of the late Walter Payton, and Heads Up Football Advisory Committee members and football moms Christine Golic and Diane Long.
  • Heat, hydration and nutrition with Mike Schroeder and Lisa Wong of Athletico Physical Therapy.
  • Heads Up Tackling with USA Football & former Bears players Anthony Adams (Heads Up Football Ambassador), Desmond Clark, Gary Fencik, Mike Richardson (Heads Up Football Ambassador) and James "Big Cat" Williams.
  • Proper equipment fitting with Chicago Bears equipment manager Tony Medlin.

The NFL hosted its first free Moms Football Safety Clinic in August at Ohio State University. Several NFL clubs have also hosted Health and Safety Forums for parents, youth football coaches and youth players.


Dr. Matthew Matava serves as president of the NFL Physicians Society and as team physician for the St. Louis Rams, St. Louis Blues and for Washington University athletic teams. He recently answered questions about the role of the team physician and their interaction with players.

What's a day in the life of a team physician like? What makes your position unique?

My daily activities are dependent upon the day of the week. Sunday is game day, which means I am at the stadium about 2.5 hours prior to kickoff in order to address any medical issues that may influence a player's participation in the game. Monday involves a visit to the training room to evaluate any injured players and review all MRIs, X-rays, or other tests that are obtained. Treatment decisions are made, and an injury report is given to the head coach. Tuesday is a day off for the players, but I will occasionally perform surgery on any player injured in the previous game. Thankfully, this is a rarity. Wednesday and Thursday involve visitation to the training facility to evaluate players immediately after practice and determine the progress of injured players in terms of their ability to participate in the upcoming game. Friday is relatively quiet from a medical standpoint. On Saturday, we are available to deal with any last minute medical issues that come up. Once Sunday arrives, the cycle starts all over again.

This schedule is somewhat unique when you consider that the team physicians caring for NFL teams juggle these responsibilities with their regular medical practices, many of which typically involve 60-hour work weeks. Therefore, the fall and early winter months are busy times for NFL team physicians.

When people ask you about the conflicts between working for a team and making players' best interests a priority, what do you tell them?

I tell them that our first, second, and third priorities as NFL physicians are player health and safety. What is best for the player is typically best for the team anyway. The stakes are too high and the implications too significant to let competitive issues influence our medical judgment. Fortunately, coaches, general managers and team owners realize the importance of player safety, as well as the fact that rushing a player back in prematurely usually results in an even longer period of recuperation from the original injury.

What is a common misconception about team physicians?

That coaches and team owners dictate what medical decisions we make regarding the management of injuries and the timing of return to play. This could not be farther from the truth.

On game day, what does the sideline look like in terms of medical resources available to players?

Each NFL game has 25 to 27 medical personnel immediately available for any possible injury scenario. Beside the teams' certified athletic trainers, orthopedists, and primary care physicians, there are a number of subspecialists, such as an ophthalmologists, dentists and chiropractors present. In addition, there is an independent neuro-trauma specialist (typically a neurosurgeon) present on each sideline to assist with the diagnosis of concussions. The NFL also requires an emergency room physician or anesthesiologist on the sideline. Finally, there is a certified athletic trainer upstairs near the press box overseeing the entire field in order to detect any potential injuries not recognized by the physicians on the field.

In terms of equipment, an NFL sideline resembles a small emergency room with medication, splints, braces, tape, padding and transport carts at our disposal. Every NFL stadium also has an X-ray machine for the immediate evaluation of any potential fractures or dislocations.

How are you part of players' lives? Do those relationships continue beyond their playing careers?

NFL team physicians not only care for the players, but also their families. A number of players often live in the cities they played in once they retire. We continue to take care of their medical needs long after their playing days are over.

For more information on the NFL Physicians Society, visit


Former NFL players now serving as Heads Up Football Ambassadors spent time with leagues across the country in recent weeks, reinforcing Heads Up tackling and talking about the values of football participation.

Former Buffalo Bills defensive end Phil Hansen spoke at a banquet for the Williston Parks and Recreation District football league in Williston, N.D. He said Heads Up Football is meant to help the coaches, as well as the players.

"The volunteers are doing the real work," he said. "[Heads Up Football] gives them the tools to teach the game safer."

Sam Madison, former Miami Dolphins cornerback, spent time at a West Boynton Youth Football League game in Lake Worth, Fla.

"The one thing that we're really trying to hammer home for kids is to keep your head up," Madison said. "See what you hit, hit what you see."

Former Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Brian Finneran attended practice for the Central Dekalb Jaguars Youth Football team in Stone Mountain, Ga. The host of Atlanta sports talk show "The Front Line" spoke to the players about the importance of safer tackling techniques and taking the head out of the line of contact.

Other Heads Up Football Ambassadors visiting youth leagues in October include: Ray Buchanan, Randy Gradishar, Jeff Hartings, Aaron Hayden, Brian Kinchen, Chad Lewis, Neil Lomax, Ricardo McDonald, Todd Pinkston, Kendrick Rogers and Roy Williams.

-- NFL Communications

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