NFL Health Update: Study calls for better injury data in preps



A new study released last week by the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council calls for better data to help parents make informed decisions about their children participating in sports.

The report, supported by a $75,000 grant from the NFL Foundation, provides a broad examination of concussions in a variety of youth sports with athletes aged 5 to 21.

"The findings of our report justify the concerns about sports concussions in young people," said Robert Graham, chair of the committee and director of the national program office for Aligning Forces for Quality at George Washington University, Washington, D.C. "However, there are numerous areas in which we need more and better data. Until we have that information, we urge parents, schools, athletic departments, and the public to examine carefully what we do know, as with any decision regarding risk, so they can make more informed decisions about young athletes playing sports."

"We commend the IOM's recommendations and are proud to have supported the study," said NFL senior vice president of health and safety policy Jeff Miller. "We have been engaged on the key issues discussed in the report. It calls for more research into diagnosis and prognosis of concussion, longitudinal studies and education programs to increase concussion awareness and understanding. We are investing in all of those areas and will continue to work in partnership with leading organizations on youth sports safety."

Among the study's findings:

  • "Whether repetitive head impacts and multiple concussions sustained in youth lead to long-term neurodegenerative disease, such as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), remains unclear."
  • "Very little research has evaluated the relationship between concussions and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. There currently are no data to evaluate this relationship because existing post-concussion symptom evaluations do not assess suicidal thoughts."
  • Concussion rates per 10,000 athletic exposures in college athletics according to the Datalys Center (2009-2013): field hockey (14.5%); wrestling (12.4%); men's ice hockey (8.2%); women's soccer (6.5%) and football (6.3%).

To view Miller's interview with NFL Network on the study, click here.

For more information on the study, visit


A retired NFL veteran, Jamel White serves as a Heads Up Football ambassador for the Mentor Youth Football Association in Mentor, Ohio. White, a former running back, was a key player on the 2002 Cleveland Browns playoff team, with 922 combined rushing and receiving yards. White also played for the Baltimore Ravens and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He answered questions about his role as an ambassador.

Why did you decide to become involved in Heads Up Football? Why is it important to you?

I became an ambassador because of the proper football technique and education that it brings to parents, players and coaches at the youth, high school and amateur levels. I see Heads Up Football as an investment for the future of football that will pay off. Taking the head out of the game while initiating contact or making a big play and knowing your surroundings are key factors in playing football safety.

What do you hope to share with the youth football players throughout the season?

I have shared my life story with youth football players, providing them with examples of the importance of doing things the correct way. One example I use is keeping your eyes on the prize. I tell youth football players that in order to get what you want, you have to see it first and then follow through. This is what Heads Up Football teaches. I compare Heads Up Football to wearing a seatbelt. If you are in an accident and not wearing a seatbelt, the chances of getting hurt greatly increase. However, if you prepare the right way -- by wearing a seatbelt -- you have put yourself in the best position possible. Heads Up Football teaches safer and smarter play.

How have you seen attitudes towards sports safety change?

I have noticed more people taking an active role in understanding what it takes to play the game safer, such as coaches asking the right questions about how to develop a practice plan. Since concussions have become a significant issue in football, more parents, players and coaches know the symptoms and are aware of what to do or what should be done. When it comes to concussions, I remind parents, players and coaches that there is a difference between being tough and being smart.


Here are some statistics on programs that provide benefits to former NFL players. Statistics are updated monthly:

  • Retired players have received more than $67 million through the Bert/Rozelle retirement plan in the past 12 months.
  • In the same time period, former players' widows and surviving children have received more than $10 million.
  • 267 applications have been approved under the 88 Plan since its inception in 2007.
  • Since 2007, more than $27.5 million has been distributed through the 88 Plan.


Former NFL players now serving as Heads Up Football ambassadors have spent time with Heads Up youth football leagues across the country in recent weeks, reinforcing the essentials of proper tackling and the positive values of football participation.

Former Chicago Bears players Anthony Adams and Mike Richardson attended the Moms Football Safety Clinic at Halas Hall, which was hosted by the NFL and the Bears. They taught nearly 200 moms of young players how to tackle using proper Heads Up technique, taking them through the same drills that their sons learn.

Drew Mahalic, former linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles and San Diego Chargers, visited practice for the Alberta Youth Football League in Portland, Oregon. Mahalic, who now serves as the CEO of the Oregon Sports Authority, worked with the group of more than 60 players over the course of the season.

"I sure wish someone would have taught me the Heads Up Football tackling technique when I was young," he said. "The players caught on quickly, and their coaches were well-informed as well to reinforce this safe tackling technique. Heads Up Football is indispensable for the future of this sport. This terrific program needs to reach everyone playing youth football today."

Other Heads Up Football ambassadors making visits to local leagues in recent weeks included: LaVar Arrington, Anthony Davis, Al Del Greco, Brian Finneran, Arlen Harris, Blaine McElmurry, Anselm Ofodile, Kendrick Rogers and Roy Williams.

-- NFL Communications

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