The National Football League has created a wellness initiative that it says will provide mental health support and other assistance for current and former NFL players—thousands of whom are suing the league over concussion-related injuries.
In a statement July 26, the league said that the NFL Total Wellness program "will help empower players to make positive health decisions; promote support-seeking behaviors in connection with behavioral and mental health issues; and provide health and safety education for players and all members of their support network. ... "
The program includes NFL Life Line, a 24/7 service that allows players to connect with mental health professionals by phone or online.
"There is no higher priority for the National Football League than the health and wellness of our players," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Thursday in a statement to 11,000 current and former NFL players.
The NFL is being sued by thousands of former professional football players who say the league misled them about the dangers of concussions. The athletes say they suffer from various neurological and cognitive problems related to head injuries they received while playing football for the league.
Defendants in the suit include the NFL, football helmet manufacturer Riddell Inc. and affiliated entities of those two businesses.
The multidistrict litigation, being heard in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, has grown to include complaints from more than 2,400 former players, according to recent media reports.
Former Atlanta Falcons player Ray Easterling, a lead plaintiff in one of the numerous lawsuits consolidated into the Philadelphia case, committed suicide in April.
The NFL is expected to use a workers' compensation exclusive remedy defense in the liability lawsuits. The league contends that it did not mislead players about the risks associated with playing football.