Posts Tagged ‘NFL’

NFL Players Continue to Take Pain Meds After They Retire

You may have seen the recent headlines or watched ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” report on the misuse of painkillers among retired National Football League (NFL) players. Not surprising, the new research conducted by investigators at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that brutal collisions and bone-jarring injuries associated with professional football often cause long-term pain, and that former NFL players continue to use painkilling medications.

The study of 644 former NFL players was commissioned and supported by a grant from ESPN, with additional funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health. Among the key findings are:

– 7% of the former players were currently using painkilling opioid drugs, more than 4 times the rate of opioid use in the general population.

– More than half (52%) say they used prescription painkillers during their careers, and nearly three-quarters (71%) of that group say that they abused the drugs, with 15% admitting to misusing the drugs over the last 30 days.

– About two-thirds (63%) of former players who misused the drugs during their playing days got their medication from a non-medical source, including a teammate, coach, friend, or the Internet.

The study reminded me of conversations I’ve had with Allan Levy MD, New York Giants team physician emeritus and my co-author of Sports Injury Handbook. Pro football is a grueling, physically demanding game, he said, and the players are expected to endure pain and continue playing. Basically, they get paid to play in pain. To maintain their performance, players often need to take pain medications.

It makes sense that NFL players use painkillers more often than Average Joes because they’ve been exposed to them. Addiction research shows once you’re exposed to painkillers, you’re more likely to continue to use them.

There’s no doubt NFL players, current and retired, are taking painkillers, and abuse happens. Maybe most famously, quarterback Brett Favre missed 45 days of the 1996 season due to a Vicodin addiction.

For the rest of us, early, aggressive use of simple over-the-counter painkillers can allow you to rehabilitate sports injuries.