The National Football League on Tuesday unveiled a partnership with historically Black colleges and universities to give 16 medical students an opportunity to practice sports medicine in the league.
Starting next football season, the NFL Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative will give HBCU students a one-month clinical rotation at one of eight NFL teams: the Atlanta Falcons, Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Chargers, Los Angeles Rams, New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers, Tennessee Titans and Washington Commanders.
The initiative aims to address the historic underrepresentation of Black physicians in sports medicine, both in and out of the NFL, by opening a new pipeline into the field, Tim McAdams, president of the NFL Physicians society, said at a news conference.
"We have a lot of work to do. At the NFL Physicians Society, we have 5% Black members," he said. "That change has to start from within."
Participating HBCUs include the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, Howard University College of Medicine, Morehouse School of Medicine and Meharry Medical College, according to the news release.
The opportunity could be"career-changing" for participants and the players, according to Lisa Barclay, chair of family medicine at the Charles R. Drew University College of Medicine.
"Having sports medicine providers who look like the patients, the athletes that they're serving, who can relate and talk about some of the impacts of social factors on overall health, is really going to help to improve the overall health and well being of our athletes," she said.
The NFL plans to expand the initiative in 2023 to include more teams, medical disciplines and medical schools, according to the press release.
"There are certain specialties where the kids come along and they know this is kind of what they want their career to be," said Hugh Mighty, dean of the Howard University College of Medicine and senior vice president of health affairs. "So, if anything, we're going to have the problem of keeping people back until we expand the program, which, hopefully, will be sooner rather than later."