The NFL and the NFL Players Association announced a pair of committees aimed at researching pain management treatments and combatting mental health issues.
The Joint Pain Management Committee will establish standards for teams and research alternative therapies for treating players. Time will tell whether the group's work could lead the league to reconsider its stance on marijuana, but many players have already vouched for legalization as an alternative to painkillers.
"We want to explore all of the strategies that help a player deal with acute and chronic pain," Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL's chief medical officer, said in a phone interview Monday with ESPN's Dan Graziano. "Some of those efforts require medication, some don't. With regard to marijuana, certainly there's a lot of discussion about not only cannabis but cannabinoid compounds, CBD, and it's something that healthcare providers are exploring outside of football. That type of research will certainly be part of the mission of this committee and this program."
Additionally, each team will appoint a pain management specialist before the start of the season.
Meanwhile, the Comprehensive Mental Health and Wellness Committee will develop educational programs to assist players, their families, and employees of the NFL.
All 32 clubs will be instructed to hire a behavioral health clinician by the start of training camp, who will focus on supporting players' emotional and mental well-being. Each clinician will be required to spend at least eight hours per week at their team's facility, and mandating mental health education sessions for players and coaches will be among their responsibilities.
"I think there's been an increased recognition in the sports medicine community over the past couple of years of how important behavioral and mental health issues are today, especially with young people," Sills said.
The Comprehensive Mental Health and Wellness Committee will also work with local and national mental health and suicide prevention organizations to reduce stigmas and raise awareness for suicide prevention.
The NFL has placed a greater emphasis on the mental health of its players in recent years, and has altered several in-game rules to help protect players against recurring head injuries.