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NFL Health Update: Troy Vincent relates five myths about players



NFL senior vice president of player engagement Troy Vincent, a former All-Pro defensive back, emailed NFL fans last week on "The Top Five Myths About NFL Players," which can be viewed here.

"Contrary to longstanding lore, national studies indicate that former NFL players live long productive lives, own homes, have strong marriages and successful jobs after football," Vincent said in his letter to fans. "You also might be surprised to know that the NFL provides a vast array of services and programs to assist its players in attaining success throughout their athletic life cycle -- including before they make it to the professional ranks, during their playing career, the transition away from playing and throughout the next phases of their lives."

Vincent's letter also detailed the unique peer-to-peer model and programs that the NFL Player Engagement department uses to help players.

To learn more about the services and benefits available to NFL retirees -- from free health screenings to pension to career transition services, visit


Unaffiliated neuro-trauma consultants (UNC) are available to assist team medical staffs in the diagnosis and management of suspected concussions or spine injuries at every NFL game. Dr. Javier Cardenas, who works at the Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center, serves as a UNC at Arizona Cardinals games. He recently answered questions about his role on game day.

Describe your role as a UNC.

I focus on player protection. I serve as a sideline consultant and assist in identifying collisions that may result in concussion or other neurological injury, such as head to head, head to ground, knee to head, etc. Whether on the home or away sideline, the team's medical staff makes use of my unbiased opinion in the event of a suspected concussion.

What are you looking for as a UNC on the sideline?

In addition to watching for suspicious collisions, I look to see how the athletes are behaving on the field. Do they look disoriented, sluggish, of just "off?" During sideline assessment, I am looking for abnormal eye movements, imbalance, trouble with memory, concentration and processing speed. Fortunately, we have an entire team working on this process, including an athletic trainer in the video booth, support on the ground and access to video "under the hood" like the officials have. We work collaboratively to maintain player safety.

As a pediatric neurology expert, what concerns do you hear from players and/or parents about head injuries?

As a child neurologist, I am repeatedly approached by parents who want to do what is best for their child. Concussion education, prevention and management are key to avoiding and minimizing injury. Unfortunately, I have treated patients who have suffered a second concussion before recovering from their first and have paid the price with their health. Parents and athletes are concerned about the short-and long-term consequences of head injury. I reiterate the importance of properly fitted equipment, safe and smart play, identification of concussion, and preventing athletes from returning too early.

What sort of culture changes have you seen regarding head injuries across all sports?

In Arizona and across the nation, I have seen a huge shift in culture regarding concussions. There is a greater awareness on the part of coaches, parents and now athletes. I see more kids taking charge, removing themselves from play and waiting until they have completely healed before returning. More young athletes are advocating for their health and that of their teammates, ensuring they can compete for years to come and do well in school.


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

Brian Mitchell, a former running back and return specialist for the Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants and Washington Redskins, attended both the postseason tournament and awards banquet of the Central Loudoun Youth Football League in Leesburg, Virginia. Mitchell said he has seen attitudes change for the better toward safety in sports, particularly in the Central Loudon Youth Football League.

"I got involved with Heads Up Football because I saw so many kids being taught the wrong way to play football," Mitchell said. "I hope not only to share with them information that will help give them a safer experience in football, but information they can use throughout their lives."

Other Heads Up Football ambassadors making visits to local leagues in November have included Dennis Brown, Al Gross, Aaron Hayden and Mike Meade.

-- NFL Communications

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