NFL illegally used drugs to mask injuries, ex-players allege in lawsuit

Eight retired NFL players, including Jim McMahon and Richard Dent, are part of a group of NFL players who filed a lawsuit alleging that the league illegally supplied them with painkillers to conceal injuries.

Attorney Steven Silverman, who said his firm filed the lawsuit Tuesday in federal court in San Francisco, alleges that, because of a culture of drug misuse, drugs were used to help players quickly return to the field, boosting profits. The Associated Press reported the lawsuit and was given a copy of it ahead of the filing. From the AP story:

The league obtained and administered the drugs illegally, without prescriptions and without warning players of their potential side effects, to speed the return of injured players to the field and maximize profits, the lawsuit alleges. Players say they were never told about broken legs and ankles and instead were fed pills to mask the pain. One says that instead of surgery, he was given anti-inflammatories and skipped practices so he could play in money-making games. And others say that after years of free pills from the NFL, they retired from the league addicted to the painkillers.

“The NFL knew of the debilitating effects of these drugs on all of its players and callously ignored the players’ long-term health in its obsession to return them to play,” said Silverman, whose Baltimore firm also represents former National Hockey League players in a concussion-related lawsuit.

From the AP:

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 on to 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. Team-employed doctors and trainers illegally administered the drugs, the lawsuit alleges, because they didn’t get prescriptions, keep records or explain side effects.

Last year, the NFL settled a concussion-related lawsuit by former players for $765 million. A judge has rejected that, for now, out of concern that the funds may not be sufficient. Of the eight named plaintiffs in Tuesday’s lawsuit, six also were involved in concussion-related litigation. This lawsuit, according to the AP, “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 league has yet to comment on the litigation, but New York Giants owner John Mara told The Washington Post’s Mark Maske that he had nothing to say about the suit.  “I really don’t have a lot of knowledge,” Mara said during a break in the owners’ one-day meeting in Atlanta. “I haven’t seen the complaint and so I’m not going to comment on it.”

After spending most of her career in traditional print sports journalism, Cindy began blogging and tweeting, first as NFL/Redskins editor, and, since August 2010, at The Early Lead. She also is the social media editor for Sports.
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