Tag Archives: public relations

NFL, USA Football Spin Story for Parenting Writers, Bloggers with Forum on Heads Up Football

Last week, the NFL and USA Football hosted more than 40 bloggers and writers who focus on health and parenting issues for an open forum on USA Football and its Heads Up Football initiative.

Clearly, the NFL and USA Football were very proud of their public relations initiative.

The league notified Journalists that participants in the Forum “learned more about the program, its progress in its pilot year, and plans to expand the program in its second year.”

Speakers included USA Football Executive Director Scott Hallenbeck, USA Football Player Safety Coach Michael Brandt, Sandi Brown, the parent of a youth football player participating in Heads Up Football, and Jeff Miller, NFL Senior Vice President of Government Relations and Public Policy.

DR. Elizabeth Pieroth, PSY.D., ABPP, Head Injury Consultant, Chicago Bears; Neuropsychologist, NorthShore University HealthSystem then “lead the group in a discussion on youth sports safety, where bloggers shared their feedback on the difficulties of implementing change in their communities; the pressures on youth athletes to excel at sports at increasingly younger ages; qualified medical personnel on sidelines at youth sporting events; and the risk and reward of sports participation.“

The NFL even found someone, Jessica Cohen—a blogger from Found the Marbles—to say the league “understands the popularity of its sport and has accepted this as a social responsibility to take on the difficult topics of total health and safety. The bottom line is that in addition to all of the incredible work that the NFL and USA Football are doing with regards to youth health and safety, parent and player involvement is vital to the reduction of concussions.”

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Concussion Topic Takes Center Stage in NFL’s Fall 2012 Health & Safety Report

(Editor’s note: What follows are excerpts from the executive summary of the 2012 NFL Health and Safety Report.)

“The goal of this and future reports is simple: provide those who care passionately about the game of football and its players with a comprehensive look at the league’s health and safety efforts, and illuminate where important progress has been made in the past year — and where further improvements can be made,” according to the league

The passage went on to describe “the key pillars” of the program.

“Health and safety culture” was first. The NFL said this particular commitment requires “ongoing education, dialogue and monitoring” as well as “constant assessment and consistent reinforcement of policies.” It also pointed to cooperation from “everyone involved in the game – players, coaches, administration, medical staffs and the NFL Players Association.

“The combination of these efforts, in conjunction with league-wide rule changes and safety equipment updates as outlined in this report, have measurably improved player health and safety. There is perhaps no better recent illustration of the league’s commitment to health and safety than in the area of concussions. The NFL has taken considerable steps to reduce both the occurrence and health impacts of head injury, including concussions.

“In 2011, the league continued these efforts by updating rules and enforcement policies meant to reduce head injuries, and by educating players about what to do if they experience concussion-related symptoms through educational videos, and a fact sheet and poster distributed to all teams, and presentations from the officiating department. The league also added further enhancements to its in-game concussion-related policies, instituting a new tool for sideline concussion evaluations, and more.

“The NFL also continued to promote safe play at all levels of football, working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USA Football and other leading organizations to educate young athletes, their parents and coaches about the importance of head injury awareness.”

The league wrote that “advocacy” is another “pillar,” pointing out that it is “a passionate advocate for the passage of youth concussion laws in every state. As of September 2012, 40 states and the District of Columbia have youth concussion laws, and the league is committed to supporting passage in all 50 states.”

“Safety rules” was next, with the league pointing to the fact that it moved the kickoff line from the 30 to the 35-yard line, and how that “contributed to a 40 percent reduction in the number of concussions occurring during kickoffs when compared to the previous season.”

“Research” and “equipment” rounded out the “pillars.” With the former, the league noted how NFL Charities has “funded nearly $22 million in medical research grants in the areas of sports injury prevention and treatment,” many in areas related to concussions. With the latter, the league highlighted its “Head, Neck and Spine (HNS) Committee and its Subcommittee on Safety Equipment and Playing Rules” and how these committees “have been focused on supporting research to identify improvements to equipment that can provide additional protection to the head and neck …

“The HNS Committee is currently studying the use of accelerometers for a pilot program that will collect head impact data to better understand the amount and types of hits players sustain.”

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What Do Concussions Have to do with the NFL’s Equipment Mandate?

What was the real motive behind the NFL’s announcement last week that it was requiring its players to wear thigh and knee pads for the 2013 season?

It could have been that the NFL genuinely cares about its players. Don’t laugh. The lockout aside, the NFL has, over the years, acted like a father might act around his children, punishing where necessarily or,  more importantly in this case, protecting them.

Another motive might have been for the league to continue to demonstrate a pattern of looking out for the health interest of its players. While it may have nothing to do with the past, regarding concussion research and what the NFL did or did not know, such a pattern may influence a jury, or at least the public’s perception of how much the NFL cares about its players.

More likely, however, its motive is one of strengthening its image as the concussion litigation draws near. The NFL doesn’t want to settle these cases unless it has to. The stronger the “Shield,” the more options the league has to ride this out.

One potential ally the NFL will not have at it’s disposal is the NFL Players Association. When the announcement of the equipment mandate was made, Union head DeMaurice Smith sought to subtly expose the NFL’s motive in a well-thought out statement:

“Any change in working conditions is a collectively-bargained issue.  While the NFL is focused on one element of health and safety today, the NFLPA believes that health and safety requires a comprehensive approach and commitment.  We are engaged in and monitor many different issues, such as players’ access to medical records, prescription usage and the situation with professional football’s first responders, NFL referees.  We always look forward to meeting with the NFL to discuss any and all matters related to player health and safety.”


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