In 2012 the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) conducted a rigorous review process and in 2013 selected Harvard from among numerous university-based applicants to be the sole recipient of a grant to enable research that will study and improve the health of NFL players. The NFLPA grant supports a program that will marshal the intellectual, scientific and medical expertise throughout Harvard University to discover new approaches to diagnosing, treating and preventing injuries and illnesses in both active and retired players.
Following the NFLPA’s announcement last year of their selection of Harvard and a commitment to grant Harvard funding, a collaborative partnership has resulted in the signing of a contract that stipulates the final scope of the research and a timeline for implementation. The scope of work involves three key components: Player studies, pilot grants, and ethics and the law. The in-depth discussions that led to these final statements of work, benchmarks and metrics assure that the science will be rigorous and of the highest quality.
The research has commenced and updates will be made as findings are published. Ongoing funding requires Harvard to achieve clear benchmarks for each statement of work. The first statements of work have been launched and will be evaluated at specific intervals as follows:
- Player Studies in five years,
- Pilot Grants in three years, and
- Ethics and Law in three years.
The program is being governed by an executive committee comprised of 12 members, six of whom are from Harvard and six of whom are from the NFLPA. The executive committee will serve in an advisory capacity to the principal investigator, providing strategic vision and ongoing feedback. In addition, an independent external advisory board will meet yearly and provide feedback from experts to help ensure vigorous review of the process and the highest quality of science.
Harvard faculty will retain all rights necessary to maintain academic freedom including the unencumbered right to publish, ownership of all intellectual property and control of the data resulting from the studies. The privacy of players who participate in studies will be protected to the highest ethical and legal standards.