Harvard University and the National Football League Players Association (“NFLPA”) are negotiating a deal with the NFL seeking a $100 million grant for the purpose of studying, diagnosing, and treating injuries and ailments suffered by players as a result of their football careers.
Dr. Lee Nadler, the Harvard Medical School Dean for clinical and translational research, attested to the groundbreaking nature of the proposed project, noting “[n]o one has ever studied the players [themselves] before. There have been postmortem studies looking at the brains of previous players but not the players today.”
One has to wonder how generous the NFL will continue to be – after all, the league just donated $30 million to the National Institutes of Health last year to study brain injuries in NFL alumni. Still, proponents of the Harvard study made sure to stress that this would not be simply another concussion study; instead, it would consider a whole host of health ailments potentially facing former NFL players including chronic pain, depression, heart problems, and diabetes. The scope of the proposed research is beyond anything that has been conducted to this point – preliminary estimates called for a nation-wide group of 200 NFL alumni drawn from a 1,000 person study group, with all participants being subject a wide array of medical tests.
Dr. Herman Taylor, one of the non-Harvard medical professionals retained for the study, stated, “Typically, when we do a test or medical study, we’re taking a snapshot. What we want to do is see the full-length movie of what happens to a player over time.”
On the issue of funding, NFLPA Executive George Atallah noted, “Given the scope of health issues that NFL players are subject to, we are committed to making sure that enough money is allocated to get answers.” However, because the research will be funded by a portion of league revenues, the actual amount the NFL is willing to put towards the study will likely not be determined until after the Super Bowl.