NFL Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills said on Friday that the league will add a mask requirement for all players in all football leagues, including the college, high school and professional leagues, if a rule can be devised and approved by the league’s competition committee. According to Dr. Sills, coaches would explain to their players what to do and how to put a mask on appropriately, and any player who fails the required practice and game testing can lose their eligibility for competition.
League-wide compliance, which would be required during the off-season, would not be turned over to an outside agency. “The Commissioner, and the Competition Committee, will decide if any player could be suspended,” Dr. Sills said. He was careful not to name any players or teams in particular.
The league announced earlier this week that it will tighten its standards for urine and blood-testing to measure the potential for human growth hormone in both players and teams, requiring samples from players to be tested for all formulations of IGF-1, including the newer, more potent FCAT3 form. Players will have to supply all of their lab numbers and blood samples, and must wait an additional week for the tests to be conducted. Violations would result in one to two-game suspensions. Also, teams will be subject to random testing of players and personnel, but will not be singled out for any additional testing. There has been no public indication of a change in current policy for positive tests.
The league had made testing policy changes for HGH a priority for the 2017 season, according to Dr. Sills, citing concerns about the presence of HGH in the locker room and athlete treatment centers across the country. In 2015, the NFL and the NFL Players Association announced a partnership to identify and prevent the use of illegal HGH, saying at the time that such chemicals had not been found in NFL players.
“We wanted to make a change for two reasons: it is the area of most concern in the current environment, and people with known genetics and metabolism systems make their schedule and make their lifestyle more geared towards performance-enhancing substances and hormones,” Dr. Sills said. He said the players helped develop a solution that would allow the league to solve a significant issue in the sport, and it did not involve relying on testing. “The testing issue is part of the solution,” he said. “We discussed what is it you do, and it turned out to be as simple as getting some appropriate screening measures into the NFL regular season and into the preseason. It is actually easier than getting a new rule because we can legislate to, what I would say, the norm.”
It was not immediately clear when the league would implement the rule change. Dr. Sills said, “We will let you know when it is introduced.”