NFL teams with US Army for concussion program
The NFL and U.S. Army have teamed up on a long-term program to
care for and prevent concussions and head trauma, as well as other
Commissioner Roger Goodell and General Raymond T. Odierno, the
Army Chief of Staff, announced the initiative at the U.S. Military
Academy on Thursday.
Goodell and Odierno cited the common traits between soldiers and
football players, particularly when dealing with stressful
situations that can lead to injury.
”We can bring greater awareness not just to our two
organizations, but to the general public,” Goodell said of the
program. ”We will do all we can to get our players and the
soldiers to under what each other goes through. We’ll work to
change our cultures by working closely together.”
Changing the culture is the biggest test, Goodell and Odierno
said during a panel discussion on safety before nearly 200 cadets.
Odierno even admitted he would have struggled to take himself out
of combat with a non-visible injury such as a concussion. But he
recognizes the need for leaders who will overrule the injured
”That is our most difficult challenge,” Odierno said. ”We all
base ourselves on the warrior ethos and the soldiers’ creed as
soldiers. If you have a problem and you identify it, to me that is
courageous, too. But self-selection is really difficult. There has
to be a bond to take care of each other.”
Goodell echoed that approach.
”We understand the risk involved when you play any sport and we
want people to share the responsibility,” Goodell said. ”It’s not
just the player injured who has to raise his hand. It’s the
coaches, his teammates.”
The league is being particularly proactive in the head trauma
diagnosis and treatment area after dozens of lawsuits against it
were consolidated into one massive complaint involving more than
2,400 people, most of them former players. By joining with the
military, it hopes to ”integrate the uncompromising devotion to
win with a need to address traumatic brain injuries with the
necessary care, consideration and commitment to prevention that
these injuries require,” Goodell and Odierno said in a letter sent
to soldiers and current and former NFL players.
Also on hand were former players Troy Vincent, now the NFL’s
vice president of player engagement, and Bart Oates. Both said they
often were concussed while playing – Vincent seven times – and
Oates said he returned to action with a concussion.
”Would I try to stay in the game again? Absolutely,” he said,
noting that was – and often still is – the mentality of players.
”You can’t be expected to self-police yourself as a player. You
won that position, it’s your job, you are there to help the team
win and that is the most important thing. So individually, if you
are trying to police it, it can’t be fixed.”
To change that mindset, Oates insisted educating players at a
young age to what he wasn’t aware of about concussions when he was
growing up is essential.
Vincent believes the protocols and education on awareness of
head injuries within the NFL will work, but agreed with Oates that
athletes won’t self-regulate.
”There’s no such thing as making the right decision in the heat
of battle. You stay in the game to win,” Vincent said.
But Goodell explained that making the correct decision in the
end will prolong players’ careers. And that correct decision –
whether it involves taking yourself out of the game or someone else
forcing you to leave when you show signs of head trauma – will
become easier to make as everyone becomes more aware of the
The panel discussion was the third between the NFL and the
military, including one at the Pentagon. The new program guarantees
”A lot of attributes are quite alike between soldiers and NFL
players,” Odierno said. ”We’ve come together, two groups of
people who are dedicated and courageous, to see how we can help
both players and soldiers to deal with this important issue. With
nearly 1.1 million soldiers, we have a wide audience we have to
deal with. I think this (program) will help bring more awareness to