As more NFL players have become vocal about the mental health impact of concussions, a growing number of coaches and executives are beginning to take notice.
The NFL Players Association is sponsoring a conference to address the issue in August in Las Vegas.
In the weeks leading up to the event, NFLPA president DeMaurice Smith said players have made strides in educating themselves on the issue, but there are still many more issues to address.
“The problem is not just the NFL players,” Smith said, “but every person who is involved in this issue.”
The NFLPA has called for more mental health awareness and better treatment for players since it launched its concussion awareness campaign in 2015.
The group has been trying to get the league to implement policies that would help players and coaches with the effects of concussive injuries, like concussion screening and medical care, and more effective ways to address players’ symptoms and help them feel more comfortable returning to play.
The league’s policy change, which was recently approved by the NFLPA and the league, would require teams to post a warning on players’ uniforms if a player experiences symptoms that are associated with a concussion.
The warning would also include a link to a page that players can go to for additional information about concussions and what to do if they feel they have been impacted.
Smith said the NFL’s policy is an important step, but he said more needs to be done.
“It’s not enough to tell players, ‘Hey, I know what you’re going through, so don’t come to work every day,'” Smith said.
“That’s not going to be enough.”NFLPA executive director DeMaree Smith, right, listens during a news conference in July to explain the new policy for players to be required to wear a concussion awareness logo on their uniforms.AP photo/Ted S. Warren”It needs to say in black and white, ‘You’re not going back, you’re not returning,'” Smith added.
Smith also called for better research on the link between concussions at the NFL level and depression among players.
“There’s not a lot of data out there to back up what’s going on, but it’s definitely something we’re working on,” he said.
Smith, who serves as the league’s executive vice president of player safety, said the league is working on new protocols that would give players more control over their own medical care and how their data is used.
He said the organization has started working with the NFL Players Alliance to create the new guidelines.
Smith and NFLPA executive vice presidents Troy Vincent and Michael DeBartolo also spoke to the media this week, discussing how they are working together to help players recover from concussions.
The players’ union recently launched a website to help other players learn about the issue and how they can take action.
“This is not a matter of just sitting down and discussing the issue,” Vincent said.
“[We have] to put in place protocols that address the needs of our players.”
The website includes resources for coaches, trainers, trainers and medical staff, as well as other information about concussion prevention, diagnosis, treatment and recovery.
“We’re very excited about the information we’re getting,” Vincent added.
“There’s a lot to learn and we’re trying to do a better job than we did before.”
The union also plans to host a conference in October to discuss how to help athletes recover from their concussions better, according to Vincent.
He hopes the conference will include representatives from the NFL, the NFLN, the NHL, the MLB and other sports leagues.
“I think that’s the big thing,” he added.