Monday, May 13, 2013

NFL: Safe to say, Roger Goodell doesn’t trust medical survey


(PhatzRadio / Boston Hearld) — The number was stunning to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, but it was much more than that. It was unbelievable, a feeling he still holds three months after the NFL Players Association claimed 78 percent of its members did not trust their team’s medical staff to care for them.

That is what Goodell told an audience of team doctors, trainers and other health and wellness professionals yesterday at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine conclave at the Sheraton Boston during an hourlong discussion of the league’s efforts to ensure player health and safety.

During the lead-up to Super Bowl XLVII, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith announced the stunning results of a union survey concluding not only that 78 percent of NFL players did not trust team medical staffs, but that only 43 percent felt team medical care was “good.”

For a commissioner who has made player health and safety a cornerstone of his tenure, Goodell was first distraught and later disbelieving. The league challenged those numbers, and Goodell’s skepticism was readily apparent when a Chicago Bulls team physician asked about the troubling thought his peers’ patients don’t trust them.

“I saw the comments from De Smith and it disturbed me,” Goodell said. “I asked on at least three occasions and also in writing for that so-called survey. We never received it. All it is is a headline. There’s no learning from it without sharing it.

“Personally I’m not sure it exists. I won’t be until I see it. I don’t believe the numbers.”

Goodell claimed the league has brought awareness to what has been called a concussion epidemic, investing time and money into sponsoring research while actively working to change the rules and how the game is coached to make what is an inherently dangerous profession less so.

One area of emphasis he said was an effort to “take the head out of the game,” urging instead a return to the old-school use of the shoulder in blocking and tackling.

“The helmet is for protection,” Goodell said. “It is not a weapon.”

While both union and management concede the league’s increased emphasis on player safety and more strict enforcement of the rules to reduce dangerous contact, on the issue of team medical care a clear divide exists. George Atallah, NFLPA assistant executive director of external affairs, confirmed the union had not shared its survey results with the league, citing promised anonymity and fear among some players of retaliation for criticizing team medical staffs.

“It’s our survey,” Atallah said. “We’re not obligated to show it to them. We’ve answered every question they had about it. I see their point of view but I don’t agree with it.

“We can survey our players any time we want and have no obligation to share it. Instead of fixating on that, they should fixate on better care for past, present and future NFL players.

“I can say we’ve made progress on medical credentialing going forward and having independent physicians on the sideline. How that will work is to be determined, but we have had discussion on that as recently as during the draft.”

Some players and many agents believe there is an inherent conflict of interest between a physician and the team that employs him, whether money is exchanged or not (many doctors and outside medical staff work free and some even pay for the privilege as a marketing tool for their own practices).

Goodell insisted there was no such bias and that care was not compromised, pointing out that players are free to seek second opinions and have surgical work done independent of the team, and that this year neutral physicians will be on the sidelines to consult with team medical personnel, although it is not yet decided if they will have veto power over return-to-play decisions.

“We want him to have independent authority to remove a player from the game,” Atallah said. “The league opposed that but they may have begun to come around on it.”

Goodell did not address that point but said that while he did not see the need for a neutral “chief safety officer” as the union suggested in January, a credentialing process for all doctors and trainers approved by both sides has been implemented.

“We’ve worked with the NFLPA to select them,” Goodell said. “We’re not looking for headlines about a safety officer. We met for eight hours with the NFLPA before the Super Bowl and not once did it come up.”

What has are ongoing debates over blood testing for human growth hormone, a nearly undetectable performance enhancer. Goodell said the union continues to quarrel over both blood testing procedures and an appeal process, even as the drumbeat from Congress demanding it increases.

“They asked if we’d agree to the same (third party) appeal procedures they have in baseball,” Goodell said.

“We agreed. We’ve tried to make it easy to say yes; 60 days later we still don’t have an agreement.”
Three months later he still hasn’t seen that survey claiming 78 percent of NFL players don’t trust their doctors either. Nor, apparently, is he going to.

By: (Ron Borges / Boston Hearld)

NFL: Safe to say, Roger Goodell doesn’t trust medical survey is a post from: PhatzRadio.com
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