NFL Alumni tour Sanford Health for partnership talks

Regenerative medicine could benefit former pro athletes & others

Two NFL alumni visit with a Sanford Health employee as they tour Sanford sports complex.

After impressing NFL fans for years, Kyle Richardson and Billy Davis are now impressed themselves.

Richardson and Davis are the co-directors of health care initiatives for the NFL Alumni Association, an organization focused on the overall well-being of retired NFL athletes, along with kids across the United States.

Founded in 1967, the 501(c)(3) non-profit features more than 35 regional chapters across the United States, and donates roughly $1.5 million to various charities, annually.

Richardson and Davis became close while winning the 2000 Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens. They say after years of competing in a violent sport, professional football players are in dire need of health care after their playing career is over.

“It’s almost like when you buy a washer and dryer, and it breaks down right when the warranty expires. That was equivalent to our health care. Right when you need it, your body started breaking down, and we didn’t have any health care coverage,” said Davis, who’s had over 25 surgeries in his life.

Related: NFL Alumni talk COVID-19’s impact on upcoming season

Connecting with Sanford Health

At a recent congressional briefing, Dr. David Pearce, Sanford Health president of innovation, research and World Clinic, spoke about the work Sanford is doing in regenerative medicine. Richardson and Davis both happened to be there.

“Kyle Richardson came up to me and said we need a piece of what Sanford is doing. We need to understand what you’re doing. We’ve got a lot of beaten up players who need treatments, and it seems to me that you’re a leader in the field,” said Dr. Pearce.

Because very few former NFL players and cheerleaders knew about regenerative medicine, and to gauge interest, Dr. Pearce and Tiffany Facile, the current Sanford Health research development partner and soon-to-be director of regenerative medicine at Sanford Health, teamed with Davis and Richardson to send out a survey on regenerative medicine to all NFL Alumni members.

“We realized that our membership is saying, ‘I’m interested, but I’m also confused. Where’s the glossary of terms?’ That’s what we’re trying to do with Tiffany Facile, David Pearce and Sanford — really take that first step and be an educational component,” said Richardson.

Learn more: What is regenerative medicine?

Coming to Sioux Falls

After further conversations and education, Davis and Richardson came to Sioux Falls for a three-day tour of Sanford facilities with

“There’s a lot going on here,” Richardson said. “This is unique. I think you have to get here, as Dr. David Pearce says, to really understand all the moving parts. It’s such deeper, and much broader than just the health system deliverables. It’s really about the culture and the offerings to your community. We’re really excited that this could be something we could be a part of.”

Davis felt the same way.

“I’m just impressed,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of health care templates, campuses, integrated facilities, and integrated medicine, but this one is quite impressive. Especially, in the research that I’m looking for in regenerative medicine. Just the amount of knowledge and ability that Sanford brings is second to none. So world-class.”

The visit also provided an opportunity for even more clarification from Facile and Dr. Pearce on how much regenerative medicine could help not only former NFL players and cheerleaders, but anyone who could benefit from this kind of therapy.

“Sanford offers a slew of different services that really would benefit their members and their communities,” said Facile. So, in partnership with the NFL Alumni, I hope that we can not only take care of their members, but also anyone throughout the United States,” said Facile.

Becoming a trusted partner

Dr. Pearce says what sets Sanford apart from other health systems is the importance the health care provider has placed on internal research, which is unusual for most providers.

“To create a research department, when we’ve got all these research departments associated to academic medical centers across the United States, that’s the key. An academic medical center is attached to a health system. There’s so much bureaucracy, so much interplay there,” said Dr. Pearce.

“We’ve built in this current scenario, a research arm that has been able to work with physicians. What do physicians want? What do our patients want? All the research that Sanford Research does is patient orientated. It has to be relevant. That’s the magic that we have here at Sanford,” he added.

Because of this, Sanford Health has been able to separate itself from “bad actors” in the regenerative medicine field.

And Richardson says the NFL Alumni Association has taken notice.

“Obviously, Sanford is out in front of a lot of this, doing their own trials. We’re going to help participate in that trial; that would be our goal. The outcomes of that are going to help the market and make it more credible. It’s really important to be under the guise of the health system’s credibility.”

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Posted In Innovations, Orthopedics, Research, Sioux Falls, Specialty Care, Sports Medicine, World Clinic

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