The NFL hopes to increase collaboration with the NCAA in an effort to improve the safety of football for the athletes who participate in the sport.

Medical experts for the NFL spent Monday and Tuesday in Indianapolis sharing their data and findings on the prevention and treatment of injuries with college officials.  

“We’re able to show them what we’re working on and what we’re finding and how we’re applying that knowledge into the day-to-day care of professional athletes,” Dr. Allen Sills told The Associated Press during a break in the presentation. “I think we hope this is the start of even more regular interaction between the two organizations because we share the exact same goals, which is improving the health and safety of players.” 

The meetings included a range of medical and safety professionals, including the NFL’s health and safety team, the NCAA’s Sport Science Institute and medical staff from schools in each of the power five conferences." 

Sills suggests that the NFL has made between 50 and 60 rules changes over the past decade in the interest of player safety. The NFL now thinks that the key to improving safety for all players to ensure that changing attitudes and rules trickle down to the college, high school and youth levels. 

Last year’s statistics showed a 24 percent decrease in the number of concussions, dropping from 281 in 2017 to 214. Now, the NFL is focusing on lower-body injuries. 

“We’re taking a very, I think, comprehensive approach to understanding foot, ankle or knee injuries and the contributing aspects of that,” said Jeff Miller, the NFL’s executive vice president for health and safety initiatives. “I think, we are looking at the performance of certain cleats; their traction; how easily they release from different turf surfaces; how much different turf surfaces contribute to potential injuries; how we train our athletes, the load they go through on a daily basis or through a training camp and whether that correlates with particular sprains or strains.”

Sills and Miller also spoke Tuesday about handling emergency situations when players suffer cardiac arrests or heat illnesses, in addition to brain and spine injuries, and they back the NFL’s new mental health initiative that was announced last month. However, their prime objective is to share the knowledge with schools across the country.

“We know that our knowledge is expanding rapidly and there are many things we can learn from each other,” said Sills, a neurosurgeon who worked at Vanderbilt before taking the NFL’s post in March 2017. “There’s a lot of potential for collaboration around the research questions we’re both working on. For example, we have a major research effort around playing surfaces and how cleats interact with playing surfaces. We can look at 1,800 athletes in the NFL, but imagine the power of being able to expand those observations to a number of NCAA athletes. That’s going to allow you to reach conclusions a lot quicker and with more power because we’ll have more athletes.”

Andy Berg is Executive Editor of Athletic Business.