$118,700 – that is what a National Football League (NFL) player earning an average league salary makes per game each Sunday. The NFL is a $9.9 billion industry. According to one former offensive lineman, team doctors and trainers would hand out painkillers and anti-inflammatories like they were candy. Just to keep players playing.
In 2014, the Drug Enforcement Agency, in response to a lawsuit filed on behalf of 1,300 former NFL players, began an investigation into the uncontrolled distribution and abuse of prescription painkillers throughout the league. Hall of Famer Richard Dent, who played 12 of his 15 seasons with the Chicago Bears, is one of the players who joined the lawsuit. Dent told CBS Sports that players were treated like livestock. Jim McMahon, Dent’s teammate on the Bears team that won Super Bowl XX in 1986, is also part of the lawsuit. McMahon claims the Bears medical staff routinely gave him Percocet without explaining the dangers associated with the drug. McMahon became addicted to the drug, taking as many as 100 a day, including the offseason.
Play through the pain culture
Wide receiver Roy Green played for various clubs over his 13-year career. According to an article in the Irish Times, Green, in his deposition, claims he “received hundreds, if not thousands, of injections from doctors and pills from trainers, including but not limited to NSAIDs, Indocin, Naprosyn, Percocet, Vicodin and Butisol.” He was also given trauma IVs. No one from the NFL ever talked to him about the side effects of the medications he was cocktailing. Since retiring from the game, Green has suffered three heart attacks. He had a kidney transplant in 2012.
Other players claim they were injected with the anti-inflammatory, Toradol, before games to numb any pain they would suffer in the game. Toradol is commonly given to racehorses. Brett Favre was one of the most successful quarterbacks ever to play the game. But in 1992, Favre was in his second season in the NFL. He separated his shoulder but was so worried he’d lose his position—NFL contracts are not guaranteed—he decided to play through the pain with the help of Vicodin. The doctor who prescribed it had no qualms of letting Favre play. Favre became addicted to the drug, taking as many as 15 times a day. He admits to vomiting up the undigested pills, washing them off and swallowing them again. Favre eventually was treated for addiction in 1996.
In an op-ed for the New York Times, former Denver Broncos tight end, Nate Jackson, wrote, “Virtually every single player in the NFL has a certifiable need for medical marijuana. The game we celebrate creates a life of daily pain for those who play it.” Marijuana is still a banned substance in the NFL, but more players are turning to smoke rather than pills for anesthesia.
The players have at least one well-known advocate in their corner. Malcolm Gladwell, author of the “The Tipping Point” and other bestsellers, called the NFL a “moral abomination”. In a commentary reported on Askmen.com, Gladwell exclaimed, “Can you point to another industry in America which, in the course of doing business, maims a third of its employees?”
Deaths related to prescription drugs now outnumber automobile fatalities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 45 people die every day from prescription painkillers. If you are abusing your prescription meds, call 866-450-1557. We can help.