The National Football League and the NFL Players Association are putting more resources in place for players’ pain management and behavioural health through new union agreements.

The two parties will be forming a joint pain management committee, with medical experts appointed by both the league and the union, according to a press release. The committee will establish standards for club practices and policies on pain management and relevant use of prescription drugs. It will also be responsible for conducting research to better understand the science of pain management and improve the medical options provided to players, including alternative therapies.

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In addition, a newly established prescription drug monitoring program will provide the committee with periodic reports, keeping track of all drugs prescribed to players, whether by physicians associated with the NFL or not. Further, each individual NFL club will be required to appoint a pain management specialist before the outset of the 2019 season in September.

As for behavioural and mental-health care, the NFL and the players’ association will form a comprehensive mental health and wellness committee, which will be tasked with developing educational programs on mental health for players, their families and other NFL employees. The committee will also work with local mental health and suicide prevention organizations to reduce related stigmas in the broader community.

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Each NFL team will also retain a behavioural health clinician, who needs to be available to players onsite for a minimum of between eight and 12 hours per week. The clinician will conduct mandatory mental-health educational sessions for players and coaching staff, and will create and conduct mental-health emergency action plan drills implemented in the coming season.