The National Football League announced a partnership with four HBCU medical schools designed to lure Black aspiring physicians to work in sports medicine and give them experience in the field.
Dubbed the NFL Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative, the partnership between the league, the NFL Physicians Society and the Professional Football Athletic Trainer society, will see a total of 16 medical students from four schools—Meharry Medical College, Howard University College of Medicine, Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science and Morehouse School of Medicine—do monthlong, in-season rotations with eight NFL teams. The teams—the Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles Chargers, New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers, Tennessee Titans and Washington Commanders—will each host two students each.
Officials from the NFL and the schools involved said during a conference call today that the program could help draw Black students into medical specializations where they are woefully underrepresented. Specifically, the medical students will have the chance to explore primary care sports medicine and orthopedic sports medicine. Only 5 percent of the members of the NFL Physicians Society are Black, and nationwide, only about 2% of orthopedic surgeons are Black. The Professional Football Athletic Trainer Society said that 23 percent of its members identify as Black while 65 percent identify as white.
About 70% of NFL players are Black.
“We have significant work to do to ensure that the NFLPS membership more closely mirrors the player population we treat every day,” said NFL Physicians Society President and San Francisco 49ers head team physician Dr. Timothy McAdams. “It begins here by broadening the pipeline and encouraging medical students from diverse backgrounds to consider the possibilities of a career in sports medicine.”
The NFL, schools and the participating organizations all said they have eyes on expanding the program quickly. The league said there was interest from far more than the eight participating teams but emphasis was placed on teams in cities near the participating medical schools. The schools in turn had their own processes for selecting students to participate, but all said they had more than enough interest to fill their allotted slots.
In future classes, the program could expand beyond targeting orthopedics and sports primary care to roles like nutritionists, physician assistants, certified athletic trainers and more.