Approximately 20,000 athletes have played in the NFL since its inception. Despite this relatively small number, many of these men are among the most severely injured in sports.
Football is a high-velocity, collision sport. Success is based on the ability to resist injury and tolerate pain. Many of the injuries incurred while playing become chronic and lead to lifelong debility. Although many injuries are orthopedic, an increasing number of traumatic brain injuries and psychiatric problems are emerging.
Sadly, little has been done to support these former football players and their families. Some have moved into other professions that provide health benefits. Others have been left to find entitlement programs where health care is limited and preventive care is non-existent.
Fortunately, in the most recent collective bargaining agreement, active NFL players negotiated for approximately $200 million to be set aside for the ongoing health care of former players. The program through which this is administered, currently known as “The Trust,” has become much more than a health program.
“The Trust is a set of resources, programs and services designed to provide former players with the support, skills and tools to help ensure success off the field and in life after football,” states Bahati VanPelt, executive director of The Trust.
The Trust consists of six pillars that address brain and body, career, education, finances, personal interaction and lifestyle. The brain and body pillar utilizes national health centers at the Cleveland Clinic, Tulane University and the University of North Carolina.
“I received the most comprehensive medical evaluation I have had since playing in the NFL,” reports former player, Bernard Whittington.
The Trust is a unique program. Establishing a system of care for former players by active players sends an important message to skeptical sports fans that it’s not always about the money.