On May 20, 2014 a lawsuit was filed in federal court in California by retired players against the National Football League (NFL) claiming that team physicians and trainers illegally provided powerful narcotics and other controlled substances to players on game day to mask pain and keep them on the field. The general theory of the case is that the NFL placed profits ahead of players’ health. Ex-players contend that they were provided with medications without being warned of potential side effects and in some cases were not even advised of their real injury. For example, some players were never told that they had broken bones and were instead fed pain pills and anti-inflammatory drugs and asked to return to the field. Some of the side effects alleged by the ex-players from the “pill feeding” by the NFL include heart, lung and nerve ailments; kidney failure; and chronic injuries to muscles, bones and ligaments. According to the lawsuit, players were routinely given drugs that included narcotic painkillers Percodan, Perocet and Vicodin, and anti-inflammatories such as Toradol, and sleep aids such a as Ambien. Toradol was described as “the current game-day drug of choice of the NFL”. Therefore, in addition to the physical side effects from ingesting an abundance of narcotics, many of these ex-players also began suffering from addiction as a result of years of free access of narcotics provided by the NFL. According to a study published online in the Drug and Alcohol Dependence journal, retired NFL players misuse pain medications at a rate more than four times that of the general public because the players misused the painkillers during their NFL careers.
Some of the key findings include:
• 52 percent of the retired players said they used prescription pain medication during their playing days. Of those, 71 percent said they misused the drugs then, and 15 percent of the misusers acknowledged misusing the medication within the past 30 days.
• Those who misused prescription painkillers while playing were three times more likely to misuse the drugs today than those who used the pills as prescribed while playing.
• 63 percent of the retired players who used prescription pain pills while playing obtained the medications from a nonmedical source: a teammate, coach, trainer, family member, dealer or the Internet.
Source: Washington University in St. Louis
Currently the lawsuit has approximately 750 plaintiffs and covers players who played in the NFL between 1968 – 2008. Some of these 750 plaintiffs are also plaintiffs in the widely publicized concussion lawsuit against the NFL.
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