The NFL is about to face a whirlwind of backlash thanks to a lawsuit filed Tuesday on behalf of more than 600 former players. The suit alleges that team physicians and trainers across the league routinely handed out powerful drugs and other controlled substances on game days to help players mask their pain.
Though it’s not shocking that the use of painkillers is rampant across the league, the plaintiffs in the suit give details about the drugs they claim teams persuaded them to use and how severe injuries were actually covered up. Painkillers like Percodan, Percocet and Vicodin, anti-inflammatories such as Toradol, and sleep aids like Ambien were “handed out like candy at Halloween,” according to lead attorney Steven Silverman.
Former San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman Jeremy Newberry is one of the plaintiffs and has been vocal about the fact that the drugs worked, but caused long-term problems. The 38-year-old Newberry now suffers from kidney failure, high blood pressure and violent headaches. He is one of eight plaintiffs named in the suit.
Newberry claims he “often” walked into the 49ers locker room in a walking boot and crutches, then lined up behind as many as two dozen teammates for “treatment.” He would get a cocktail of painkillers and/or Toradol and within a few minutes head out onto the field to play.
The NFL settled a lawsuit with former players regarding concussions for $765 million less than a year ago.
Many of the players involved claim they knew they were taking powerful drugs, but felt that they would lose their jobs if they didn’t adhere to the advice of team officials and use the substances provided.
Three members of the 1985 NFL champion Chicago Bears – quarterback Jim McMahon, Hall of Fame defensive end Richard Dent and offensive lineman Keith Van Horne – all report serious debilitating effects, like chronic muscle and bone ailments to permanent nerve and organ damage. McMahon and Van Horne are among several players who claim they were never told about broken bones they suffered and were fed pills to mask the pain.
Former NFL offensive lineman Kyle Turley had the following to say:
“There was a room set up near the locker room and you got in line. Obviously, we were grown adults and had a choice. But when a team doctor is saying this will take the pain away, you trust them.”
The culture described by players is seriously disturbing. It’s one thing to tough it out through an injury at some point, it’s another to do that every week for an entire career. The fact that the NFL has such a strong stance against a drug like marijuana yet allows teams to pump their players full of these painkillers is ridiculous.
Something has to change and hopefully this lawsuit brings these behind-the-scenes practices to light.