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NFL announces league-wide expansion of initiative to increase diversity in sports medicine

MINNEAPOLIS -- The NFL, together with the NFL Physicians Society (NFLPS) and the Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society (PFATS), today announced the league-wide expansion of the NFL Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative, providing medical students with the opportunity to complete a clinical rotation with NFL club medical staff. Now in its second year, the initiative aims to increase and diversify the pipeline of students interested in pursuing careers in sports medicine to help make a positive impact in the medical field and, over time, help to diversify NFL club medical staff.

Medical students interested in primary care sports medicine and orthopedic surgery have been selected to complete one-month clinical rotations with NFL clubs, presenting a unique opportunity to learn from and work directly with club medical staff as they deliver world-class care to players across the league. Last year's inaugural class was comprised of 14 students from the four Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) medical schools who completed rotations across eight NFL clubs. The 2023 program expands to match diverse students from 19 medical schools with NFL clubs across the league.

Diverse medical students in-training, including those training to become sports medicine-focused physicians, are historically underrepresented. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, enrollment of diverse students is increasing. 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%," while "American Indian or Alaska Native matriculants declined by 9%." The NFL's Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative is expanding to provide more students with an interest in sports medicine exposure and opportunities in the field.

"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," said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. "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."

The NFL, NFLPS and PFATS are committed to continuing their work to increase diversity in sports medicine in service of health equity and improved outcomes for athletes across the country.

"The NFLPS is honored to be a part of this critically important program. We are proud to expand this program to reach more diverse medical students across the nation. I know firsthand that the students who rotated with the 49ers last season were exceptional -- and I learned so much from them. We look forward to another successful season," said Dr. Timothy McAdams, NFLPS president and head team physician for the San Francisco 49ers.

"The Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society (PFATS) is proud and honored to be an integral partner of this program. Having had a student rotation at my club, I know first-hand how important and critical a program like this is for the diverse medical student community. PFATS, and all of our members across the league, are excited to continue to foster this amazing program and reach more students with another successful season, " said Reggie Scott, PFATS past-president and vice president, sports medicine and performance for the Los Angeles Rams.

The inaugural program for the 2022 season was comprised of students from the four Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) medical schools -- Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, Howard University College of Medicine, Morehouse School of Medicine and Meharry Medical College. This year, participating institutions also 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, 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.

"Participating in the NFL Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative with the Los Angeles Rams was a once in a lifetime opportunity that provided me incredible insight into a career in sports medicine and mentorship that I believe will extend to the rest of my career," said Felipe Ocampo, 2022 Pipeline Initiative participant and Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science medical student.

"I am so grateful I had a once in lifetime opportunity to participate in this program. I learned something valuable from everyone on the medical team of physicians, athletic trainers, strength and conditioning coaches, psychologists, nutritionists," said Dr. Kayla Thomas, 2022 Pipeline Initiative participant and Howard University College of Medicine graduate. "I hope the NFL continues to incorporate more schools and teams to allow students to experience the intricacies of sports medicine."

As the program continues to grow, the league aims to further expand the pipeline initiative in the coming years to include additional disciplines, spanning additional roles in the NFL's player care "Team Behind the Team" including physician assistants, certified athletic trainers, physical therapists, occupational therapists, nutritionists and behavioral health clinicians.

The Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative is part of the league's broader commitment to ensure that staff and leaders in the league office and at NFL clubs reflect the racial and gender makeup of America. Among NFL club medical staffs, the initiative builds on existing efforts to recruit and hire diverse medical staff when positions become available across all roles, and to increase diversity across NFL medical committees.