Football is a violent sport. There is contact on every play. Injuries are a part of the game, making the news every week. But what fans don’t seem to hear about are the players that play through the pain.
Recently, concussions have been the hot topic around the NFL. CTE is a devastating disease impacting many former players. Another, less popular but important topic, is prescription drug addiction among NFL veterans.
The movie Goon pokes fun at the use of prescription drugs in sport. “Stay away from my [expletive] percocets, and do you have any [expletive] percocets”. While the situation is portrayed in lighthearted way, it sheds light on a dark reality– players rely on painkillers to get through the season.
In an interview with VICE Sports, former NFL defensive end Marcellus Wiley recounts his personal experiences. Wiley discusses the disturbing realities behind the scenes of pro football. There is a pressure to “tough it up” and play through pain because, as he points out, all players are experiencing some kind of injury.
He talks about how team doctors gave him envelopes of a drug called Toradol without disclosing any information on the drug. Wiley remembers the doctors urging him to just “take it”.
Wiley has asthma problems. He was not aware that Toradol does not react well with that condition. The doctors knew this, but failed to disclose the information to Wiley. Years later, his kidneys shut down.
A professional team doctor’s focus is to make sure that the players play. They are not as concerned with players’ long-term well-being because, well, it is not the top priority of their job. As a result, they prescribe medicines without properly disclosing their effects.
Along with twelve other ex-players, Marcellus Wiley joined a lawsuit against the NFL. They claimed intentional misrepresentation by way of illegally dispensing painkillers to the players. Months later, a judge dismissed a majority of the claims. His explanation: the veterans’ ailments were time-barred, meaning too much time had passed for them to be admissible in court.
It can be argued that the players hold as much responsibility for what goes into their body as the doctors do. However, players are paid to play the sport. They are not paid for their knowledge of medicine. The doctors are the experts and should be held accountable for what they prescribe.
Along with the fight to limit concussions, players and veterans alike are pushing the NFL to make changes. These issues are real, and they are impacting the lives and families of real people. In listening to its players, hopefully the NFL will continue to fine-tune its rules, adapt to these realities, and change for the better.