As the dangers of concussions have become more and more clear, many quietly have speculated on the potential impact of steroids and performance-enhancing drugs on the cumulative impact of repetitive brain trauma.
In a recent interview with USA Today, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith stopped short of blaming steroids — but he suggested that there could be a connection between brain damage and painkillers.
“What is the relationship to painkillers and the possibility of exacerbating both the concussive and sub-concussive event?” Smith said. “Two years ago, the use of Toradol became an issue because we found out Toradol is an anti-coagulant, so if you take the combination of concussive and sub-concussive events and you add to it a drug that is being prescribed by team doctors that prevents or inhibits clotting, you are now concerned whether sub-concussive events were being exacerbated. We want to make sure every team doctor is having that conversation with every player.”
The NFLPA occupies a delicate and awkward position in the concussion litigation. The union hasn’t been sued (yet) by the thousands of former players who claim that the true hazards were hidden from them, but the evidence likely will show that the NFLPA was directly involved in the studies and activities that many of the players claim were concealed.
For the next wave of potential concussion plaintiffs, pointing to the overuse of painkillers by teams could provide a safe harbor for the union, since it’s possibly not the concussions but the concussions and the painkillers that are causing the problems.