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Super Bowl Champ Rams Join NFL Teams Hosting Young Black Doctors

May 24, 2022, 6:01 PM

The National Football League launched an initiative Tuesday to expand the pipeline for minority medical students considering sports medicine.

The NFL Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative, created by the NFL, the NFL Physicians Society, and Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society, is open to 16 students from four historically Black college and university medical schools—Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, Howard University College of Medicine, Meharry Medical College, and Morehouse School of Medicine.

The participants, chosen by the HBCU medical school leaders, will get to complete one-month clinical rotations during the 2022 NFL season, with two students each being placed at eight different teams—the 2022 Super Bowl Champion Los Angeles Rams, Atlanta Falcons, Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Chargers, New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers, Tennessee Titans, and Washington Commanders. The plan is to expand the initiative to all of the NFL’s teams after this first session, NFL Chief Medical Officer Allen Sills said during a press conference.

This is the latest diversity and inclusion effort from the league, following its announcement to expand the Rooney Rule for hiring in March.

“Increasing diversity across every role in our league and at our clubs is essential. Diversity makes us stronger,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “We have an opportunity to help increase the pipeline of diverse sports medicine professionals, which is imperative for us as a league. This initiative is an example of how we can lend our platform for a societal benefit. I’m proud that our league can help inspire the next generation of sports medicine professionals.”

This initiative is needed to improve the number of diverse students in medical schools and the industry overall. Eighty-six percent of the NFL Physicians Society’s membership identify as white, 8% identify as Asian, 5% identify as Black, and 1% identify as Hispanic, according to the group. Sixty-five percent of the Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society’s membership identify as white, 23% identify as Black, 8% identify as Hispanic, and 4% identify as Asian. It will also help Black students who may not have the opportunity to complete a rotation like this to develop skills to pass pertinent sports medicine exams and also build mentoring relationships with big names in the NFL, said Lisa Barkley, the family medicine department Chair at Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles.

“This unique collaboration between the HBCU Medical Schools, the NFL, NFL Physicians Society and the Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society will provide a potentially once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for students to experience, learn, and develop sports medicine skills in a real environment with world-class sports teams and sports medicine professionals,” she said. “Developing medical professionals from traditionally underrepresented communities is an important, valuable, and notably proactive step towards addressing diversity issues across the field of sports medicine.”

Barkley also added that it will be helpful for the athletes to have more trainers who look like them on the sidelines and could help improve their health moving forward.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ayanna Alexander in Washington at aalexander@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew Childers at achilders@bloomberglaw.com