The Los Angeles Rams are among the eight teams participating in the newly-launched NFL Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative.
Announced by the league on Tuesday, the program "aims to increase and diversify the pipeline of students interested in pursuing careers in sports medicine to help make a positive impact in the field and, over time, help to diversify NFL club medical staff and will provide students from the four Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) medical schools the opportunity to complete clinical rotations with the participating clubs.
Joining the Rams for the program are the Atlanta Falcons, Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Chargers, New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers, Tennessee Titans and Washington Commanders. In 2023, the program will expand to recruit students from additional academic institutions and medical disciplines and place those students with medical staffs at more NFL clubs.
Medical students interested in primary care sports medicine and/or orthopedic surgery from Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, Howard University College of Medicine, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Meharry Medical College will be selected by their respective schools to complete one-month clinical rotations with NFL clubs during the 2022 NFL season, according to a press release from the NFL.
All of this is being done as a partnership between the NFL, the NFL Physicians Society (NFLPS) and the Professional Football Athletic Trainer Society (PFATS). Rams Vice President of Sports Medicine and Performance Reggie Scott currently serves as PFATs President.
"I greatly look forward to welcoming exceptional HBCU medical students to our medical staff this fall," Scott said in the release. "The representation that will come from seeing more people of color treating players on NFL sidelines has the potential to inspire people of color from around the country to pursue careers in sports medicine."
According to a study by The New England Journal of Medicine examining the diversity of the medical student population, Black medical students made up just 7.3 percent of the total medical school population in the United States. That figure has increased less than 1 percent over the last 40 years and is far lower than the 13.4 percent Black population in the U.S.
Per the NFLPS, 86 percent of its membership identifies as white, 8 percent identify as Asian, 5 percent identify as Black and 1 percent identify as black. Per PFATs, 65 percent of its membership identifies as white, 23 percent identify as Black, 8 percent identify as Hispanic and 4 percent identify as Asian.
According to the NFLPS, 86 percent of their membership identify as white, 8 percent identify as Asian, 5 percent identify as Black and 1 percent identify as Hispanic. According to PFATS, 65 percent of their membership identify as white, 23 percent identify as Black, 8 percent identify as Hispanic and 4 percent identify as Asian.
The NFL, NFLPS and PFATS' mission with this program is to not only diversify NFL club medical staffs, but also to increase health equity for athletes nationwide, given the importance of diversity and representation on medical care teams in facilitating improved patient outcomes.
In 2023, the pipeline initiative will expand beyond the disciplines of primary scare sports medicine and orthopedic surgery, potentially including roles such as physician assistants, certified athletic trainers, physical therapists, occupational therapists, nutritionists and behavioral health clinicians. Although the inaugural season of the program is focused on providing Black medical students with exposure to careers in sports medicine, the NFL, NFLPS and PFATS will also work toward widening the sports medicine pipeline for other people of color and women in the seasons ahead.
"Increasing diversity across every role in our league and at our clubs is essential. Diversity makes us stronger," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in the release. "We have an opportunity to help increase the pipeline of diverse sports medicine professionals, which is imperative for us as a league. This initiative is an example of how we can lend our platform for a societal benefit. I'm proud that our league can help inspire the next generation of sports medicine professionals."