By Stephanie P. AbdullahJune 4, 2014
FALLS CHURCH, Va. (June 4, 2014) -- Members from the National Football League's Health and Safety Policy team recently met with Army Medicine staffers, including Dr. Stephanie Maxfield-Panker, traumatic brain injury program manager, Office of the Surgeon General, and Brig. Gen. Patrick Sargent, deputy chief of staff, operations, U.S. Army Medical Command, in an effort to increase the momentum of the Army/NFL initiative on TBI/concussion program, which began in 2012, with a goal of increasing awareness among Soldiers and athletes of mild TBI/concussion and decreasing stigmas associated with them seeking care for this often invisible wound.
Sargent led the discussion to expand the collaboration with the NFL, which has a worldwide platform with which to help influence healthy behavioral change among Soldiers and potential recruits. Discussions revolved around collaborations related to Sleep, Activity and Nutrition--the three tenets of the Army's Performance Triad, behavioral health, and smooth Soldier/athlete transitions from military and sports careers. (i.e. Soldier for Life).
"Growing our alliance with the NFL is extremely important," said Sargent who oversees Army Medicine's Health and Wellness Division, which is the proponent for the Performance Triad. "Some of our young Soldiers are very impressionable. We see NFL athletes as integral collaborators as we aim to persuade Soldiers and recruits toward healthier lifestyles."
Jeff Miller, senior vice president NFL Health and Safety Policy echoed Sargent's sentiment.
"The NFL and the Army have had a very strong relationship for many years, and our collaboration around TBI provides an opportunity to work together to promote better health outcomes for both Soldiers and NFL players," Miller said.
"There is great mutual respect that exists between Soldiers and NFL players," he said. "The two groups share many cultural similarities and values, including a strong sense of team, determination, commitment, and passion. Beyond that, our players and everyone else associated with the NFL has tremendous admiration for the courage and sacrifice made by all those in our armed forces,."
Both sides hope to increase Soldier/athlete interactions as a means to increase concussion information sharing opportunities.
"When Soldiers and NFL players interact it is always very positive. While there are significant differences in what their work demands, the two groups often approach their jobs in similar ways. They speak similar languages and believe in similar values. This makes it easy for them to communicate and learn from each other," Miller said.
The NFL visit also included a briefing and tour of the National Intrepid Center of Excellence Spirit, at Fort Belvoir, Va.
Dr. Heechin Chae, the NICOE Spirit director, discussed his unique approach to the treatment of traumatic brain injury, commonly known as TBI.
"I was able to implement the best of the best techniques that I have learned from many years of experience in the civilian sector," said Chae, who established the program at the NICOE Spirit, which focuses on a holistic interdisciplinary model of TBI care.
At the NICOE Spirit, patients experience a healing approach that includes neurology, behavioral health, art therapy, vision therapy, as well as spiritual support all under one roof.
"Neither the NFL nor the Army has all the answers, especially when it comes to a complicated injury like concussion," said Miller. "Working together, the NFL and the Army will learn from each other, and in the process, help make our Soldiers and players safer."
While Army Medicine seeks to expand the Army's relationship with the NFL, the current initiative aims to increase concussion awareness and decrease the stigma associated with seeking help.
"Seeking help for an invisible wound such as concussion (mild TBI) is an act of courage that benefits the entire team, whether that team is a football team in the NFL or a unit in a combat zone, or a little league baseball team back in garrison," said Sargent.
Maxfield-Panker, the Army's TBI Program Manager noted that 80 percent of the Department of Defense's TBI's are sustained in a garrison (non-combat) environment. As such, research, focus, and continued efforts to encourage help seeking behaviors is critical even as the U.S. pulls forces out of Afghanistan.
For more information on TBI and the Army's initiative with the NFL, visit www.army.mil/tbi and www.nfl.com/military.