Fiol Law Group|Posted in Safety on October 25, 2018
The newest season of the National Football League is in full swing, and it’s not without its fair share of controversy. The NFL has been in the legal spotlight several times in recent years, namely for ignoring the damaging effects of brain injuries like concussions and reports of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Now, the NFL is in the courtroom once again: this time for the excessive use of medications to get players to play through the pain, to the detriment of their health and well-being.
Playing Through the Pain
A group of retired NFL players revived a lawsuit in September stating that they suffered permanent health effects and addiction to painkillers thanks to the league’s flagrant use of opioids and forms of analgesics.
An appeals court in San Francisco overturned a ruling stemming from the original lawsuit filed in 2014. The initial ruling alleged that the suit did not carry legal weight due to an existing collective bargaining agreement between the players and the owners. However, the 30 page opinion released by a panel of three judges prompted another chance for the players to file a class action suit in court.
The original complaint alleges that the NFL supports a culture of drug misuse and abuse. The plaintiffs, all currently retired, state that players routinely receive cocktails of pain numbing medications that include addictive opioids, local anesthesia, and anti-inflammatory medications. These pills and drugs allowed players to “tough it out” and perform through injuries. However, they also had several negative side effects, including dependence on pain medications and irreversible damage to their bodies and overall health.
Richard Dent, a retired player who played with four different franchises throughout his career, stated that he was given “hundreds, if not thousands” of such cocktails during his professional career. However, he states that no one adequately informed him of the risks of taking such medications. Today, he states that he suffers from several irreversible health effects, including an enlarged heart and permanent nerve damage.
Former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Talks About Opioid Addiction in the NFL
The current lawsuit is only one report into the extent of the problem. Ex- Tampa Bay Buccaneer Randy Grimes recently came forward to discuss the culture of opioid use and abuse in the league. At a recent conference, he opened up about the league’s attitude towards playing through the pain and the detrimental effects it has on players.
Grimes reported that he began routinely using opioids while playing as a center with the Bucs in the early 90s. Due to the nature of his position, he routinely endured hard blows and needed the medication to ease the pain to play. Grimes suffered an astounding 20 concussions throughout his career. At one point, he felt so disoriented that he retreated to the opponent’s sideline instead of his own. The last two years of his career, he was taking so many opioid medications that he played in what he called a “blackout” – he would play an entire game and later have no memory of it occurring. As the pain grew in intensity, so did his addiction.
The Bucs released him in 1992, which devastated him emotionally. While his career was over, his pain – and his addiction – remained.
Grimes ultimately sought treatment for his addiction and currently works for the behavioral health facility that helped him achieve sobriety. He acknowledges that the NFL’s attitude toward pain medication and playing through injuries may have contributed to his addiction and so spends his time travelling around the country talking to people about the dangers of opioid abuse. Not all NFL players are so lucky – many end up with permanent damage.