NFL holds first annual medical summit for teams

The NFL has been trying to make the game safer, for years. Last month, the league started something that it plans to make an annual tradition.

Via Rob Maaddi of the Associated Press, the league held a medical summit in conjunction with the annual meetings in Orlando. Roughly 18 miles from the site of the NFL’s March get-together, roughly 400 people got together for presentations and workshops about player safety.

“It’s not just team doctors or athletic trainers, all these different disciplines really see themselves as part of our health and safety effort,” NFL chief medical officer Allen Sills told Maaddi. “Clubs see themselves very holistically and nowadays, as coaches start to plan practice schedules and start to plan training camp, they really engage these different disciplines and they do it through the lens of what might be driving injury.

“Obviously, coaches want to get their teams ready to play, but they also want to make sure they’re as healthy as possible. And so that’s really where we’re looking at these interventions. How can we collectively, whether it’s through our medical care or equipment or nutrition or strength and conditioning efforts, what do we do collectively that increases player availability and reliability?”

The overriding goal is to prevent injuries. That became a relevant topic on Monday, when Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson discussed the low hit that left him with a torn ACL late in the 2023 season. As Hockenson said, he would have preferred a high hit and a concussion to a nine-month ordeal of rehabbing a serious knee injury.

It’s somewhat surprising that the league has yet to create a strike zone for defenseless receivers. Already, blows to the head and neck area of defenseless receivers are prohibited. Anything else is fair game — including a devastating shot to the knee.

That needs to go. Maybe Hockenson’s comments will catch the attention of the owners who will gather again in May. It’s not too late to change the rules, and this one would be simple. If there’s a true desire to prevent injuries.

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