Just when the National Football League thought it was getting a handle on concussions, another medical controversy has come home to roost: Eight players are suing the league for endangering their health by putting them on the field with too many painkillers. The plaintiffs include three stars from the 1985 Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears: quarterback Jim McMahon, offensive lineman Keith Van Horne, and Hall of Fame defensive end Richard Dent. If the suit filed in federal district court in San Francisco is granted class-action status, hundreds more retired NFL stars could sign on.
Players say trainers gave them narcotics to mask injuries as severe as broken bones. One declared, “Pregame, maybe 15 other starters and I would receive a shot of Toradol. During the game, I would often receive injections of painkillers. After the game, I would take at least two Vicodin and occasionally additional pills. I would then be given beer by the team. Of course, we would then be given Ambien or some other sleep medication to sleep.”
The accusations should trigger investigations into how painkillers are used not just in the pros but in college football, a big-money operation of its own. In an era when football, the nation’s top spectator sport, is being unmasked for its health risks, players need to know how much pain-killing is too much.