The NFL offers all manners of treatment and support for players who have been injured on the field. But as football continues to encompass a larger portion of its players lives, Yahoo!Sports reported the league is trying to reach out to those athletes who may be suffering from damage that can’t be diagnosed by trainers. NFL Director of Player Engagement and former 15-year veteran Troy Vincent now leads an outreach effort that provides support to players dealing with a wide range of issues — physical, emotional, financial and more.
Through this program, the NFL offers members of its community face-to-face sessions with a mental-health professional, a self-check quiz to help gauge what, if any, assistance one might need and a phone number that’s open to players, coaches, former players and family to call for help 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Part of Vincent’s plan includes identifying players who might be in need of help and staying in contact with them. It’s a strategy that has both short- and long-term aspects and extends to players who are no longer in the league.
The 90-plus-days category for the crisis plan calls for a re-assessment of “high-risk individuals and their evolving needs.” Just because media coverage has waned doesn’t mean attention should wane. Sometimes football is a short-term form of self-medication that masks deeper grieving. One of Vincent’s main goals in putting together a long-term plan is to make sure victims and loved ones aren’t ignored later on.
And the program is there for those who are no longer in the league, but find they need help coping with life outside the NFL, be it mentally, physically or financially. The day (Junior) Seau’s autopsy results were released, revealing he suffered from CTE, a condition that can lead to memory loss, dementia and depression, former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar spoke out about his struggles in the post-NFL world. Kosar said for years he’s suffered insomnia, slurred speech and ringing in his head.
“There are hundreds, if not thousands of guys who are dealing with issues and pain and stuff,” Kosar said during press conference he held at a Cleveland-area hotel. “Literally, I think a lot of them are losing hope.”
Vincent says the biggest obstacle to reaching players is admitting them to open up about their vulnerabilities in a sport where toughness is valued above all. As such, the league is increasing its outreach to athletes through monthly messages to families and providing crisis counselors during training camp. In all, the resources are available. Vincent and his staff just hopes that players will take advantage.
– Marcas Grant, contributing editor