Retired NFL Players File Lawsuit: Painkillers Given without Prescription

A group of retired NFL players has filed a lawsuit against the league alleging that teams knowingly and illegally supplied players with painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs to keep them on the field and concealed information regarding the long-term dangers associated with taking the drugs. They say the league put profits ahead of the players’ health.

The lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of 600 former NFL players, names eight plaintiffs, including former Chicago Bears Richard Dent, Keith Van Horne and Jim McMahon, as well as ex-San Francisco 49er Jeremy Newberry and Buffalo Bills wide receiver J.D. Hill.  Newberry is currently battling stage 3 kidney failure, alleging resulting from Toradol, a painkiller he says team doctors and trainers pressured him to take.

Across the NFL, players are willingly taking painkillers to control the pain they experience from playing a violent and dangerous game. According to a report on ESPN, even those players who are not injured are taking painkiller injections before games to prepare for the physical abuse they are about to experience.

The league obtained and administered the drugs illegally, without prescriptions from doctors and without warning players of their potential side effects, to numb their pain and speed the return of injured players to the field to maximize profits, the lawsuit alleges. Players say they were never told about their broken necks, legs and ankles and instead were fed pills and injections to mask the pain. Some players say that after years of free pills from the NFL, they retired from the league addicted to the painkillers.

Some of the drugs that professional football players routinely take include:

–       Toradol – a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) intended for the

short-term management of moderately severe acute pain (injection)

–       Vicodin – a narcotic painkiller combining acetaminophen and hydrocodone

–       Percodan – a combination of aspirin and oxycodone, a narcotic that is

habit-forming, even at low doses

–       Percocet – a combination of acetaminophen and oxycodone

–       Ambien —  a sleep aid that is unsafe for those with kidney or liver disease or a history of drug or alcohol addiction

The retired players reported a range of debilitating effects from the drug, including chronic muscle and bone ailments, kidney failure, high blood pressure, severe headaches, permanent nerve and organ damage, and addiction.

McMahon says in the lawsuit that he suffered a broken neck and ankle during his career but rather than sitting out, he received medications and was pushed back onto the field. Team doctors and trainers never told him about the injuries, according to the lawsuit. McMahon also became addicted to painkillers, at one point taking more than 100 Percocet pills per month, even in the offseason, the lawsuit says.

Van Horne played an entire season on a broken leg and wasn’t told about the injury for five years, “during which time he was fed a constant diet of pills to deal with the pain,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of a well-publicized case than accused the league of concealing known risks from players’ concussions. The NFL settled that case for $765 million. No blame was assessed and players received no punitive damages.

Among the eight named plaintiffs, six were also plaintiffs in concussion-related litigation, including McMahon and Van Horne. The latest lawsuit seeks an injunction creating an NFL-funded testing and monitoring program to help prevent addiction and injuries and disabilities related to the use of painkillers. It also seeks unspecified financial damages.

The lawsuit seeks class action status for any former players who received narcotic painkillers, anti-inflammatories, local anesthetics, sleeping aids or other drugs without prescription, independent diagnosis, or warning about side effects or the dangers from mixing with other drugs.

“I was provided uppers, downers, painkillers, you name it while in the NFL,” plaintiff J.D. Hill, who played for seven years in the 1970s, said in a statement. “I became addicted and turned to the streets after my career and was homeless. Never took a drug in my life, and I became a junkie in the NFL.”

The lawsuit, which has the potential to become a class action, alleges that the NFL knew or should have known it was violating federal and state substance abuse laws by putting profits ahead of players’ health.

In addition, players are seeking compensation for pain and suffering, cost of long-term healthcare and a monitoring program to help prevent addiction.

For more information, contact one of our Gacovino Lake attorneys at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).

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