In early June, during an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell spoke on the need to offer aid to players on their last legs of their respective NFL careers. This past Thursday, the NFL announced al new program that would aid both current players and retired players alike.
Less than three months after [Junior] Seau’s passing, the league has launched “NFL Total Wellness,” aimed at helping current players, former players, and league and team personnel.
“There is no higher priority for the National Football League than the health and wellness of our players,” Goodell said in a release. “Members of our community are not immune to the challenges that all individuals face. As we enter what promises to be a very exciting 2012 season, we stand by our commitment to the total wellness of our current and former players. This service is here for you.”
While NFL Vice President of Player Engagement Troy Vincent announced that the service will be “free, independent and confidential”, just last month he spoke on the obstacles NFL officials faced when attempting to help players get the treatment they may need.
“We have our player assistance and counsel services is not just available to players, but his family as well,” Vincent said on 550 WGR in Buffalo, via SportsRadioInterviews.com. “Each player has the option of four free clinician services of their choice and where they want it to. It doesn’t get used often. Very seldom does a player or family member reach out to just talk about hey I am not feeling well. Again, it’s a service that’s very underutilized.”
Vincent mentioned that there are little things that deter former players from seeking treatment, such as not being accustomed to the hassles involved: When you’re an active NFL player and you need any type of health care, mental or physical, you have a team medical staff ready to treat you on your schedule. When you’re retired, you have to sit in a waiting room and fill out paperwork. But the larger issue is that football players have been taught not to express feelings of weakness or sadness.
The struggles former players face once they are no longer able to compete on the field has been illustrated through the rash of retired players’ suicides that have plagued the NFL recently. The NFL is doing it’s part to offer avenues for treatment for those who need it. Whether or not players cooperate and participate in the program remains to be seen.