The NFL is a brotherhood comprised of athletes from all walks of life who made a living playing under the famous shield. That brotherhood still exists once a player opts to hang up his cleats, as retired tight end Fred Baxter told CBS Sports in a recent interview.
The former fifth-round pick out of Auburn spent a total of 11 seasons with the New York Jets, Chicago Bears and New England Patriots from 1993-2003. Baxter stayed close to football after retirement, serving as a football and golf coach at Widener University. He even spent the 2006 and 2010 seasons as a part of the NFL's coaching internship program and remained active in his local NFL Alumni chapter. Through this he met Dr. Chuck Morris -- who Baxter refers to as his new head trainer.
You see, once players decide to retire, a lot of things change. For Baxter, everything was organized when he was in the NFL, but he found out that professional support system changes in many ways once you leave the league. It's also harder to maintain your physical and mental health without an entire coaching staff and franchise behind you, but Dr. Morris is looking to change that.
Morris is the founder of Fulcrum Performance Lab and CEO of the new NFL Alumni Health Lab. A little over a year ago, the NFL Alumni endorsed him as its national health and human performance specialist after a trip to one of his labs.
"The CEO of the NFLA, Beasley Reece, and myself sat down and had a really great conversation about their mission -- their mission being taking care of their own and taking care of kids," Morris told CBS Sports. "While it's great to get endorsements and revenue generation from sponsorships, there still seems to be a bit of a gap -- really because of healthcare -- in technology. To really service as many people as possible. So what really piqued his interest and what really caused this relationship to forge was our ability to take the technology we have done with Binah.ai, put it inside of the app and then deploy something that any of the guys could use."
After partnering with David Maman, co-founder, CEO and CTO of Binah.ai, the two created technology that could extract medical-grade vital signs through the video camera of virtually any device such as a smartphone or computer. Binah.ai can extract heart rate, oxygen saturation, respiration rate, heart rate variability and mental stress levels all in less than one minute. Binah.ai's technology runs through an application called the MyHealthLab app.
"We began to do a pilot, where we did a program with a few of the alumni members, where we did online coaching with our software with the app," Dr. Morris said. "What came from that was that Fulcrum Performance Lab partnered with the alumni to create multiple locations around the country that would be connected to an alumni facility and a team. We would use those to facilitate services to alumni members, schools in the area and the community in general."
The NFLA is now beginning a series of studies with Fulcrum Performance Lab to determine the mental stress that NFLA members are experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the current social climate. Phase 1 of the study will open for enrollment starting Oct. 1. All NFLA members across the country are welcome to participate. The study is planned to close in late November. Data collected will be used to begin a Phase 2 study that will include a larger number of participants.
Such technology is important when it comes to determining a baseline for former athletes to use when working on their physical fitness, but it also is a useful tool in monitoring overall health and wellness as well as understanding stress levels. What's more important, however, is that this technology can help when trying to diagnose COVID-19.
Studies show that temperature check alone is not enough for determining if a person is showing symptoms of COVID-19. Binah.ai's app is able to extract vital signs such as oxygen saturation, respiration rate and heart rate, with medical-grade accuracy, and create numbers that medical professionals can use to see if there are signs a person has become infected. Morris is glad of this because the men that make up the NFLA are usually older and can be more susceptible to the virus.
"Over 65 percent of our heroes that we all grew up on, that supported us in different parts of our lives through a screen, now we can support," said Morris. "So the concept became, how do we get alongside it and take this technology that otherwise wouldn't be available to them and help assess where they are physically, mentally and emotionally -- and not just measure -- but then actually coach them to improve?"
Morris said he is looking forward to having talks with the NFL about what it would look like to bring his technology to active players in order to aid their health goals. He's out to make life easier not just for the players, but for the staff members and their families as well.
"I think that everybody wants to be healthier and I think everybody wants to have the best versions of themselves," said Morris. "So that's been our motivation to use this platform to take care of them."