Ideally, safety improvements made by the NFL will migrate to lower levels of the sport. But while the NFL can lead the NCAA horse to water, the NFL can’t make it trickle down.
Via the Associated Press, league officials are working with college officials regarding potential advances in keeping players as safe as possible.
“We’re able to show them what we’re working on and what we’re finding and how we’re applying that knowledge into the day-to-day care of professional athletes,” Dr. Allen Sills told the AP. “I think we hope this is the start of even more regular interaction between the two organizations because we share the exact same goals, which is improving the health and safety of players.”
NFL executive vice president Jeff Miller also participated in the sessions with Sills, the league’s Chief Medical Officer.
“[Coaches] care about these people,” Miller said. “They care about the performance of them and they care about their long-term viability in the league, and those are all real good reasons to be open minded about how we practice, train, and treat athletes as they go through an NFL training season or regular season.”
After a decade focused on improve brain health, the NFL has begun to focus on lower-body injuries.
“We’re taking a very, I think, comprehensive approach to understanding foot, ankle, or knee injuries and the contributing aspects of that,” Miller said. “I think, we are looking at the performance of certain cleats; their traction; how easily they release from different turf surfaces; how much different turf surfaces contribute to potential injuries; how we train our athletes, the load they go through on a daily basis or through a training camp and whether that correlates with particular sprains or strains.”
A cynic would say that the league is doing that with an eye toward that eventual argument that the game has gotten sufficiently safe to allow expansion of the regular season from 16 to 18 games. The league surely wants those extra games, and the safer the game becomes when the year is capped at 16, the easier it will be to sell 18 to players, fans, and media.