The NFL Scouting Combine - Through the Eyes of an NFL ATC
by Chris Fischetti, Buffalo Bills
As the end of the regular season winds down, many athletic training staffs have a variety of tasks to accomplish, from upcoming playoff games to end of season physicals. Regardless of the eventuality of each of our seasons, we are quickly reminded of the various events that contribute to the make up our “off season”. One of the first events, and an extremely important part of the off season, is the annual NFL Scouting Combine and Physicals. It is held each year in Indianapolis during the latter part of February and serves as a league wide opportunity for all of the Coaching and Medical Staffs to evaluate the invited draft eligible college players in preparation for the upcoming Draft in April. With this comes much curiosity, interest, and intrigue associated with a variety of emerging players. Questions about who might be “that guy” whom everyone will be surprised by or remember as being special always exist. While the Coaching staffs are interested in each player’s performance in relation to assessing strength, power, agility and speed, the Medical side focuses on the evaluation of each of the players’ past history and current medical and orthopedic status. Along with that, these assessments help teams to identify factors which affect a player’s future potential or medical concerns.
Prior to our arrival in Indianapolis, preparation for the Combine begins by entering basic information on each player into our software program, creating player charts and packing up all of the necessary materials that are used throughout the week. These may include items such as reflex hammers, goniometers, dictation machines, laptop computers and KT 1000 devices.
During the week of the Combine, each team’s Medical staff (including orthopedic and internal medicine Team Physicians, certified Athletic Trainers, Radiologists, and Cardiologists) obtain athlete’s medical histories, complete ImPact and Cybex testing, order/assess diagnostic studies/testing and perform approximately 335 physicals. Players are then seen by position group(s) over a 4 day period with the number of athletes seen varying between ~ 70 to 90+ athletes per day. Each of the invited athletes is evaluated by one of the team’s physicians and then dictated on for future reference in connection to that athlete’s status/condition. A medical grade is assigned individually by each team’s staff (various unique scales are used by each team independently) and a medical chart is developed for each player. Our role as Athletic Trainers during this process includes reviewing the accuracy of player histories, assisting the physicians with the execution of player’s documentation and diagnostic work ups and facilitating the movement of players from station to station.
In addition to the execution of players’ physicals, the Combine serves as an opportunity for each of us to get an up close look at potential players. It also gives us a chance to briefly catch up with some guys who you might have a previous connection with.
Outside of completing the physicals themselves, the Combine week also serves as an educational experience for NFL ATC’s and Team Physicians. The annual educational seminar and business meeting for PFATS occurs during the first two days of our week. The NFL Physician’s Society / PFATS General Medical Symposium and Sports Science Symposium are held later in the week. During this year’s meetings a variety of pertinent topics were discussed that range from updates regarding concussion management and return to play assessment to scientific papers, case studies and presentations from various Team Physicians. This is a great opportunity for all us to be involved with our doctors and learn from their perspectives.
Lastly, the week of the Combine offers many of us the chance to re-unite with fellow members/friends within PFATS, catch up on what is happening in each other’s lives outside of football and serves as a chance to re-ignite the professional and personal relationships that are a huge part of the Brotherhood of PFATS.
All in all, the Combine always seems to come way too quickly after the completion of the prior season and definitely serves as the trigger which sets off the preparation for the new one. For each of us it ignites the spark which gets you thinking about the excitement that is associated with our jobs and the love we have for being an Athletic Trainer in the NFL.