NEW ORLEANS — The NFLPA conducted a poll of its current membership and found that many NFL players don’t trust their teams’ medical staffs, doctors and trainers fully.
Seventy-eight percent of the polled players, when asked if they trusted their team’s medical staff, responded with an answer of “not at all.” An additional 15 percent rated their trust as being only slightly more trustworthy than that.
Only 43 percent of respondents rated their team training staffs as being "good," per the internal union data. The NFLPA said the poll was taken over the latter portion of the season and that all 32 teams were represented in the study, but did not release how many players participated. Union spokesman George Atallah said the data collected included a “scientifically valid sample size” of current players.
The NFL was not aware of the union's findings until the information was released today, Atallah said.
NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith time and time again has stated that player care, health and safety are the union’s utmost concern. NFLPA president Domonique Foxworth said that he believes the NFL is concerned about the same issues and that the league places it in its top concerns, but that it’s not high enough.
“It’s well behind increasing the bottom line,” Foxworth said of the NFL priorities.
Union members pointed to the referee lockout, Thursday night games and the league’s desire to expand from a 16-game regular-season schedule as evidence that the NFL cares more about expanding revenue than increasing safety. Smith called those things “a blatant disregard” of player safety by the NFL.
The NFL announced separately earlier in the day that it plans to have independent sideline concussion experts for each game, and not just team-paid doctors. Smith responded by saying that the union hasn’t seen their proposal to do so and was not yet prepared to comment specifically on that.
“They relented to our request on that,” said Smith of the league’s announcement.
Smith said that the union’s concerns with team doctors runs deep. He pointed to the Chargers’ team doctor, Dr. David Chao, who was twice sued for medical malpractice in the past year, Smith said. Smith also called for the league to approve a neutral chief safety officer to preside over player health issues.
Meanwhile, the union announced a $100 million program in which the health of 1,000 former players will be studied to determine long-term health implications of playing football. It will be conducted along with Harvard medical community.