The National Football League will spend $100 million to study the development of new technology and the effects on head injuries, it announced on Wednesday.
The pledge is part of a new initiative called Play Smart. Play Safe, which is meant “to drive progress in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of head injuries, enhance medical protocols and further improve the way the game is taught and played by all who love it,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said in an open letter.
The NFL has come under fire for head injuries in recent years, as players and medical professionals have raised concerns about their long-term impact on athletes. The issue gained even more prominence last year when Will Smith starred in Concussion, a film in which he portrayed Dr. Bennet Omalu, who was the first to publish findings of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in American football players.
On Thursday, Goodell said that “the NFL has been a leader on health and safety in many ways,” but acknowledged that “when it comes to addressing head injuries in our game, I’m not satisfied, and neither are the owners of the NFL’s 32 clubs. We can and will do better.”
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While he mentioned initiatives already in place, he stressed the additional funding they’re pouring into the issue.
More than $40 million has been allotted for medical research over the next five years, primarily dedicated to neuroscience. The additional $60 million will be spent on engineering, biomechanics, advanced sensors and material science.
He also noted that they’ve made 42 rules changes since 2002 to protect their players, and will continue to make changes as they study preventing injuries.
One example Goodell cited is improving kickoff rules that have lowered the number of concussions sustained during kickoffs.
He added: “We know there is skepticism about our work in this area. That’s why both the process and the results of our work will be shared with the medical community and the public at large.”