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NFL, NFLPA joint agreements address player health

The NFL and NFLPA announced two joint agreements on Monday that will support additional resources for pain management, behavioral health and promote wellness for NFL players.

Both the league and union will work together to address pain management for current players. The second agreement builds on the mental health care resources that are afforded to players with an emphasis on programs aiming for education, prevention and behavioral health.

As part of the pain management initiative, a Joint Pain Management Committee, which will include medical experts appointed by the NFL and union, will be formed to create uniform practices and policies for clubs regarding the pain management and use of prescription medications in addition to research regarding alternative methods. Prior to the 2019 season, each team must appoint a Pain Management Specialist. The Committee will receive reports from a newly-formed Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, which will monitor all prescriptions issued to players by club doctors and unaffiliated physicians.

"Very historic and proud day for league and NFLPA to partner together on this," Allen Sills, the league's chief medical officer, told Monday.

Sills added in a conversation with The Washington Post: "I think it demonstrates the spirit of cooperation we have around our health and safety issues. ... Both of these committees are about providing the best health care we can to players."

Monday's joint press release said the Joint Pain Management Committee will "conduct research concerning pain management and alternative therapies." Sills told that committee's research will include cannabis, cannabinoids and CBD, but the goal is "much broader and bigger than (marijuana)."

"The goal of this effort is well beyond marijuana," Sills said. "It's to look at pain treatment."

The league and union will form a Comprehensive Mental Health and Wellness Committee, which aims to focus on educational programs regarding mental health for players, coaches, club personnel and players' families. This Committee will also work with local and national mental health and suicide prevention organizations to promote awareness.

NFL clubs will be required to hire a Behavioral Health Team Clinician. These individuals will be required to be available to players at the facility at least 8-12 hours per week and conduct mandatory educational sessions for coaches and players. The Clinician will also be required to compose a Mental Health Emergency Action Plan for the 2019 season.

Last fall, the Carolina Panthers led the charge toward the focus upon players' mental health with the hiring of Tish Guerin as the first in-house psychological clinician in the NFL.

The NFL and NFLPA will hold sessions this summer with team physicians, head team internal medicine physicians, head athletic trainers, Behavioral Health Team Clinicians, Pain Management Specialists, and additional personnel to discuss all requirements ahead of the upcoming season. Both agreements are mandatory across all 32 clubs.

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