UNC selected as clinical site for NFLPA program on former players’ health

UNC-Chapel Hill has been selected by the National Football League Players Association to participate in a new initiative aimed at providing medical services and support to former NFL players.

The NFL Players Association unveiled its new program, called “The Trust,” on Wednesday. UNC’s Brain and Body Health Program, which was created by the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes in the College of Arts and Sciences in collaboration with the School of Medicine, was selected to be a medical partner of The Trust to provide former NFL players with a comprehensive evaluation and treatment plan for their cognitive and physical functioning. Other medical partners in The Trust are Tulane University and the Cleveland Clinic.

“This partnership with the NFL Players Association will provide former NFL players with better access to our expert sports medicine professionals for comprehensive assessment and clinical care,” says Kevin Guskiewicz, co-director of the Brain and Body Health Program and a leading expert on the long-term effects of head traumas at all levels of sports competition.

Guskiewicz also is research director for the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes, Kenan Distinguished Professor of Exercise and Sport Science and senior associate dean of natural sciences.

“Through this award, our team of nationally recognized physiatrists (physicians who specialize in physical medicine and rehabilitation) will monitor and manage the health of former NFL athletes with an interdisciplinary team of specialists, neuropsychologists, therapists and other colleagues to give each individual highly personalized care,” says Brain and Body Health Program Co-Director Michael Y. Lee, department chair of physical medicine and rehabilitation in the School of Medicine.

The Brain and Body Health Program, which saw its first patients in spring 2012, was designed to address the needs of former players who need a baseline medical evaluation upon leaving the NFL, as well as those who may be experiencing physical and mental problems as a result of abusing their bodies for years on the playing field. The problems can include musculoskeletal pain that has led to lifestyle changes and psychological problems, anxiety about transitioning out of the sport, chronic headaches and other post-concussion signs and symptoms, increased episodes of sadness, irritability or depression and early signs of memory impairment.

Services that will be offered to former players include an initial screening and medical history, an evaluation with a sports medicine physiatrist and internist, a neuropsychological evaluation, an evaluation by a cognitive neurologist, magnetic resonance imaging, a body composition and dietary consultation by an exercise physiologist and life skills coaching and transition counseling. The services will be provided at the UNC Health Care System’s new UNC Center for Rehabilitation Care and at the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes, located in UNC’s Stallings-Evans Sports Medicine Center.

As the program expands, the UNC clinical team will involve clinical partners from NorthShore Hospital in Evanston, Ill.; and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville,Va.

Read more about the Trust.

Published November 14, 2013.