NFL Faces New Spotlight
~ Amy Lignor
You name it the NFL has seen its share of controversies. From player safety to controversial calls to the most recent Saints (2012) issue when it came to ‘bounties’. And although the NBA took away the headlines for just a bit, it didn’t take long for the NFL to be back in the spotlight.
This time around, you can definitely say there is a controversy: considering the age of the people involved and the intelligence they supposedly had, versus the ‘suspected’ negligence of doctors and trainers. There are those who have already sided with one or the other when it comes to the NFL being sued over the long-term health of players…again!
First it was the NFL agreeing to pay $765 million to players on behalf of issues that came from concussions received during players’ careers. Although, it is important to note that a federal judge has not even agreed to the settlement yet, saying it’s still too small. Now, this new lawsuit comes from a group of retired NFL heroes who state that they were given powerful painkillers, as well as other drugs, that would at the time keep them in their ‘must-win games’, but would harm them physically in the long run.
Everyone has heard about steroids, and that is basically in any sport. Performance-enhancing drugs have been taken by athletes who, in the end, have actually lost their medals and trophies because they admitted to using. However, in this case, the players are stating that drugs were given to them by team doctors in order to make sure that any of their injuries were taken care of ASAP so they could head back on the field and bring home the win. This was all illegal, claims the lawsuit; drugs given with no regard to obtaining prescriptions for the player, or even offering them information on various side effects that may occur when they got older.
Can you imagine having a broken bone, but being told by one you respect and believe in that it was basically just a ‘sprain’, or a lesser injury; then being fed pills in order to make sure you did not actually feel the extent of the pain, and then sent back out on the field without a care in the world? Of course, the bone was still broken, and any football would continue to injure it even more. There is even one plaintiff who stated that he was given anti-inflammatory drugs, without being told an operation was necessary. The only upside they supposedly offered the player was that he didn’t have to attend practices so long as he played in the actual game. Add that to the addiction claims, and this is a one-two punch for the NFL.
Very familiar names are stated: Three of the players who became famous for their “Super Bowl Shuffle” back in 1985 – QB Jim McMahon, defensive end Richard Dent, and offensive lineman Keith Van Horne of the Chicago Bears – are among the five named. But even though this is a small amount, 500+ former players have signed on, seeking class-action status for the case.
Everything from narcotic painkillers to sleeping medication, as well as Percocet was fed to the players. McMahon, who perhaps is the most popular name speaking about this case at the moment, stated that he suffered a broken neck and ankle during his time with the NFL. Even though we are speaking about two horrific breaks, McMahon did not take ‘time off’ or sit on the bench to heal. He actually received medication and was sent back onto the field ASAP by team doctors and trainers. McMahon claims that none of these ‘medical men’ ever actually told him about the specifications of his injuries. And when speaking about addiction, McMahon also states that he was up to 100+ Percocet tablets per month because of his injuries and his ‘easy’ supply from the team.
Another frightening tale comes from offensive lineman Jeremy Newberry. Retiring in 2009, the drugs he took from trainers caused him high blood pressure, kidney failure and extremely violent headaches since his exit from the NFL. A story that could become a Wes Craven movie has Newberry and other 49ers teammates heading to the locker room for their Toradol injections just a few minutes before each kickoff in order to numb any pain they might be feeling.
But this is not a Wes Craven movie – this is real life. Yes, these men were certainly of the age and intelligence – even as rookies – to know what drugs were. They were able to understand and even crave the ability to go back out on the gridiron in order to help their team win. Yes, they wanted to win and football was their life. However…if, perhaps, the actual information was given to them by the people giving the drugs regarding the side effects that could come about, perhaps these young men would have had the chance to at least make a rational decision and just say “no.”
Either way, the damage is completely and utterly done. And the NFL is looking at yet another piece of their past that has caught up to them with a vengeance.