The Associated Press just released a big report on the relationship between NFL players’ health and the training and medical care they get from their teams. There’s a whole lot of insight into the pervasiveness of injuries and the inadequacies NFL training staffs have with addressing them. Let’s get into it.
Broncos DE Antonio Smith, who’s only missed one game in his career, told the AP that his sterling health is because he pays for his own doctors:
Rather than crediting particularly proficient care from the four teams he’s been with, Smith says he managed to suit up week after week after week thanks in large part to what he arranges on his own.
“You’ve got to get yourself a good system. Chiropractor, massage therapist, stretch therapist. A lot of guys are doing IVs now,” Smith said. “Take care of your body. You’ve got to do that. If the team doesn’t supply it, you spend the money.”
If you operate on the assumption that avoiding injury is nigh impossible for NFL players (which 70 percent of the surveyed players share), the issue becomes more about injury management than prevention. Under half the players surveyed said they trusted that NFL teams and their trainers had their back:
Fewer than half of those surveyed, 47 players, said they think the league’s clubs, coaches and team doctors have the athletes’ best interests at heart when it comes to health and safety. Of the rest, 39 said players’ interests don’t always come first, and 14 either weren’t sure or refused to respond.
Interestingly, this number got lower the more years a surveyed player had played in the NFL. Of players with more than four years of experience, only 35 percent responded yes to the same question. They mentioned a fundamental dissonance between players and health staff:
A couple of players mentioned the “conflict of interest” inherent to a team doctor’s job. One labeled players “the asset” that medical staffs need to rush back as soon as possible. Another said “everyone knows” the quality of care depends on the size of a player’s paycheck.
I encourage you to go read the whole thing, as they get into concussions, painkillers, and whether things are improving for players.
Photo via AP