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Bad Medicine Series Part III: Retired NFL players sue the league over the long-term effects of the drugs given to them to keep them playing

by  on  News & Resources

In addition to Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) caused by numerous hits to the head and concussions caused by such hits, retired NFL players are now suing the League for the harmful effects of the drugs they were given to enable them to play through injuries–sometimes even through broken bones, dislocated shoulders, and herniated discs. The eight former players who filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in San Francisco in May are seeking class-action status, alleging that the NFL illegally obtained and administered drugs without prescriptions, and without warning the players about the long-term consequences of their use. The former players allege that receiving daily shots of anti-inflammatory medications, and consuming narcotics like “candy” while playing in the league have resulted in renal failure, high blood pressure, violent headaches, and addiction.

Even though most of the general population does not receive such high doses of painkillers on a regular basis, there are a significant number of people today who suffer from chronic pain. As your Denver medical malpractice attorney knows, treating chronic pain requires a delicate balancing act. Anti-inflammatory medications like those used in the NFL, Toradol and cortisone, numb the pain which can lead to using the injured body part too soon and causing worse damage (one of the allegations in the lawsuit). Furthermore, chronic use of these drugs can lead to renal failure, high blood pressure, and even increased risk of heart attack and stroke. However, anti-inflammatory non-steroidal medications (ANSAIDs) are very effective at relieving certain types of pain and do not lead to issues of dependence or addiction like narcotics can.

Narcotics are, of course, the other type of painkiller most often prescribed to treat severe or chronic pain. As the NFL lawsuit alleges, narcotics (also referred to as “opiates”), were endemic in the League. In fact, 80% of the world’s supply of opiates is consumed by Americans. While some is illegal, like heroin, the majority of the consumption is prescribed by doctors for relief of severe or chronic pain. Your Denver Medical Malpractice Attorney warns that opiates also have long-term adverse effects and patients must be advised of these in order to make an informed decision about the risks and benefits of their use. Studies have shown that opiate use impairs the brain’s production of endorphins (the body’s natural pain killers), and dopamine, the “feel-good” chemical we all need to ward off depression. In addition, chronic opiate use can lead to a suppressed immune system, narcotic bowel syndrome, and heart and liver problems. Finally, the obvious issues of tolerance (requiring higher doses of the drug to achieve pain relief) and addiction are inherent risks of treating chronic pain with opiates.

Pain, particularly chronic pain, is a debilitating condition that can devastate people’s lives. Finding the proper treatment plan and being carefully monitored to avoid adverse consequences from the treatment is essential. If you have suffered any of the above effects from pain medication, contact your Denver medical malpractice attorney Jordan Levine at Levine Law for information regarding your legal rights.