NFL-NFLPA Pain Management Committee Accepting Applications for $1 Million in Research Funding 

The NFL-NFLPA Pain Management Committee (PMC) was formed in 2019 with the goal of benefiting the health and safety of NFL players through education and research.

The PMC has produced educational materials for players and team medical staffs that promote best clinical practices in pain management. The PMC has also been focused on finding alternatives to opioids in the pain management of players. In 2020, the Committee conducted two informational forums on CBD to learn about the current state of cannabidiol (CBD) science and manufacturing in North America, and, in 2021, issued a Request for Information to identify researchers studying pain management alternatives.

Now, the PMC is turning its attention to identifying potential research opportunities through a formal Request for Proposal (RFP) process aimed at supplementing the PMC's knowledge about pain management and the potential effects of pain and cannabinoids on athletic performance in elite football players.

Funding Opportunity For Innovative Translational and Clinical Research on Alternatives to Opioids: Effects on Pain and Performance

The application window for this funding opportunity has now closed. Please check back for future opportunities.

Program Description: Executive Summary

The purpose of this Funding Opportunity (as described below) is to solicit proposals from investigators who have the current capability to carry out studies aimed at supplementing the PMC's knowledge about pain management and athletic performance in elite football players. This Funding Opportunity is intended to facilitate, at a minimum, the following three lines of potential inquiry:

  1. the effects of cannabinoids on pain in elite football players (post-surgical and/or in daily pain management);
  2. the effects of non-pharmacologic treatments on pain in elite football players (postsurgical and/or in daily pain management); and
  3. the effects of cannabis or cannabinoids on athletic performance (e.g., psychomotor, reaction time, cardiorespiratory function) in elite football players.

The NFL has developed this Funding Opportunity for the purposes of inviting research proposals and providing funding for innovative translational and clinical research being conducted by leading investigative teams related to the investigation of alternatives to opiates for pain management, as well as the impact of cannabis or cannabinoids on athletic performance in elite football players.

The goal of this Funding Opportunity is to provide funding support for up to five (5) pilot research proposals from leading investigative teams in the fields of pain management and the effects of cannabinoids on athletic performance in elite football players.

The NFL's intent through this Funding Opportunity is to demonstrate the potential for translational breakthroughs by leveraging innovative research, emerging science, current data sets and archival material related to use of alternatives to opiates in the management of pain, as well as the impact of cannabis or cannabinoids on athletic performance in elite football players. This Funding Opportunity is designed to support multidisciplinary investigative teams with strong track records of collaboration and accomplishment in the field. New collaborations of strong research teams will be strongly considered as well.

Available Funding:

The anticipated total amount to be funded for this Funding Opportunity is up to $1,000,000.  The NFL expects to fund up to five (5) pilot studies within this total amount. The number of winning investigative teams, and the total amount to be funded, will be determined initially based on the quality of the proposals submitted and by recommendations from the NFL's PMC initially and by the Research & Innovation Committee subsequently (as further described below, the R&I Committee). The NFL will make the final decision as to which proposals are funded (and to what degree) based on the number of proposals recommended by the R&I Committee.

Research & Innovation Committee:

The R&I Committee, which was established four years ago by the NFL, consists of leading independent content experts, physicians, and scientists. The R&I Committee, in tandem with the PMC, will evaluate all Submissions (as defined below) and make funding recommendations for both the specific research proposal(s) and amounts to be funded by the NFL using objective guidelines established by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Proposal Submission and Review Process:

The process for submission (each such research proposal, a Submission), the review process and the process for determining funding decisions is described below:

  1. Pre-Proposal: Each Submitter shall prepare a short executive summary (a Pre-Proposal) that outlines the general goals of the research project, the qualifications of the team members, research progress made to date (if any), defined pre-clinical and/or clinical endpoints, and an anticipated timeline with expected milestones (see details below). Pre-Proposals must be submitted by completing the form at ( between June 8, 2021 at 6:00 P.M. (Eastern Time) and July 31, 2021 at 6:00 P.M. (Eastern Time). Limit one (1) Pre-Proposal per investigative team, and (2) no more than two (2) proposals per institution. Further details regarding the submission process for Pre-Proposals can be found below.
  2. Formal Proposal and Oral Presentation: Upon recommendation from the PMC, the R&I Committee will evaluate each Pre-Proposal according to the guidelines set forth by the NIH Scoring Guidance (available at Selected Submitters will be invited to prepare a more detailed research proposal (a Formal Proposal) and will be asked to present their proposal orally (the Oral Presentation) to the R&I Committee. The requirements for submitting a Formal Proposal and the requirements and limitations of the Oral Presentation of the Formal Proposal shall be provided by the R&I Committee upon notification of the invited Submitters to submit their Formal Proposal.
  3. Funded Proposals: The R&I Committee will review and score all Formal Proposals and Oral Presentations using the NIH's Scoring Guidance and shall recommend to the NFL those Submissions selected for funding and the recommended amount of funding. Based on those recommendations, the NFL will determine which, if any, of the recommended Formal Proposals shall receive funding (the Funded Proposals) and to what degree they will be funded.

Principal investigators leading the Funded Submissions may be required to attend an annual conference to report their findings and progress as it pertains to the milestones outlined in their Formal Proposal.

Timeline (subject to change by the NFL and/or the R&I Committee):

Table inside Article
Date(s) Deadline
June 8 - July 31, 2021 Submission window for Pre-Proposals
August 1 - September 6, 2021 The PMC will review all Pre-Proposals
September 13, 2021 Selected Investigative Teams will be notified of their invitation to submit a Formal Proposal and attend Oral Presentation to the R&I Committee
October 25, 2021 Submission deadline for Formal Presentations
Week of November 8, 2021 Oral Presentations to be held
Week of December 6, 2021 Notice of Awards

Official Rules:

All investigative teams will be required to adhere to the official rules available on the Program Website.

Pre-Proposal Format:

All Pre-Proposals should be considered as an Executive Summary of the intended research plan. All Pre-Proposals must be submitted on 8½" x 11" paper, using Times New Roman, 12-point font, single spaced, with 1" margins. All Pre-Proposals should be limited to 3 (three) pages and contain the following sections:

  1. Project title with affiliations of the research team members
  2. Specific aims of the research project
  3. Experimental design (limit to 1 (one) paragraph)
  4. Qualifications of the research team members
  5. Research progress made to date (if any)
  6. Defined pre-clinical and/or clinical endpoints
  7. Innovation and Deliverables 
  8. Anticipated timeline with milestones

Formal Proposal Format:

All Formal Proposal submissions must be submitted on 8 ½" x 11" paper, using Times New Roman, 12-point font, single spaced, with 1" margins. All Formal Proposals should contain the following sections, each of which is limited as set forth below:

  1. Title page with affiliations of the research team members
  2. Background and significance
  3. Specific aims
  4. Innovation and Deliverables
    **How does the proposed research reduce or eliminate a critical barrier to success; address a gap in research/evidence; or address a critical or urgent need. What are the tangible deliverables (data, device, or protocol)? 
  5. Experimental methods and statistical analyses (limit to two [2] pages) **References should be included but are not included in the page count of the experimental design. Up to 5 figures are permitted. The figures must be included in an Appendix and will not count towards the page count. Technical project milestones are encouraged and should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
  6. Biosketch (one [1] paragraph for principal investigator, total limit of two (2) pages for all researchers).
  7. Facilities and associated resources (limit to ½ page)
    **Associated resources refer to the utilization of any physical (equipment, a unique product/reagent, tissue line, etc.) or theoretical (expertise, people, skills, new results etc.) resource, data set, ongoing research or other entity to further the proposed research. 
  8. Related prior and current grants (limit to one (1) page)
  9. Team management plan detailing the contribution of each member of the research team
  10. Budget proposal with justification for all costs (both personnel and non-personnel) 
    (limit to one (1) page)
  • Please specify if the amount funded by the NFL will be in addition to other funding sources.
  • Allowable personnel expenses include salary and applicable fringe benefits for: the principal investigator, co-investigator(s), postdoctoral and graduate students if employees receiving a stipend and other professional and technical staff.
  • Only equipment essential to the conduct of this project is allowed for funding consideration. A detailed description must be provided with an explanation as to how it directly relates to this project and is not otherwise available.
  • No more than ten percent (10%) of any amount funded by the NFL to any investigative team may be allocated for indirect costs (e.g., facilities and administrative overhead costs) of institutions to which investigative teams belong or are affiliated.
  • NOTE: Funding will NOT be provided for the following:
    - Tuition
    - Honoraria or travel expense for lectures
    - Entertainment/Social Expenses