The NFL, the NFL Physicians Society (NFLPS) and the Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society (PFATS) announced the expansion of the NFL Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative which provides medical students with the opportunity to complete a clinical rotation with NFL club medical staff. Now in its second year, the initiative aims to increase and diversify the pipeline of students interested in pursuing careers in sports medicine to help make a positive impact in the medical field and diversify NFL club medical staff over time.
Medical students interested in primary care sports medicine and orthopedic surgery are selected to complete one-month clinical rotations with NFL clubs, presenting a unique opportunity to learn from and work directly with club medical staff as they deliver world-class care to players across the league. Last year's inaugural class was composed of 14 students from the four Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) medical schools who completed rotations across eight NFL clubs. The 2023 program expands to match diverse students from 19 medical schools with NFL clubs across the league.
Diverse medical students in-training are historically underrepresented. During the 2022-23 academic year, "the number of Black or African American matriculants increased by 9%," and "matriculants who are Hispanic, Latino, or of Spanish origin increased by 4%," while "American Indian or Alaska Native matriculants declined by 9%." The NFL's Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative is expanding to provide more students with an interest in sports medicine exposure and opportunities in the field.
"Working toward diverse representation across all roles in our league continues to be a top priority, and this program helps us make a tangible impact to grow and bolster a pipeline of diverse sports medicine professionals," said Roger Goodell, NFL Commissioner. "We know that diversity makes us stronger at every level, and we look forward to welcoming the 2023 class to our player care teams at clubs across the league."
The NFL, NFLPS and PFATS are committed to continuing their work to increase diversity in sports medicine in service of health equity and improved outcomes for athletes across the country.
"I am so grateful I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to participate in this program. I learned something valuable from everyone on the medical team of physicians, athletic trainers, strength & conditioning coaches, psychologists, nutritionists," said Dr. Kayla Thomas, 2022 Pipeline Initiative participant and Howard University College of Medicine graduate. "I hope the NFL continues to incorporate more schools and teams to allow students to experience the intricacies of sports medicine."
As the program continues to grow, the league aims to expand the pipeline initiative in the coming years to include additional disciplines, spanning additional roles in the NFL's player care "Team Behind the Team," including physician assistants, certified athletic trainers, physical therapists, occupational therapists, nutritionists and behavioral health clinicians.
The Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative is part of the league's broader commitment to ensure that staff and leaders in the league office and at NFL clubs reflect the racial and gender makeup of America. Among NFL club medical staffs, the initiative builds on existing efforts to recruit and hire diverse medical staff when positions become available across all roles, and to increase diversity across NFL medical committees.