NFL’s “magic potion” has risks, players like Urlacher don’t care

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In an intriguing feature included in tonight’s new Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel (HBO, 10:oo p.m. ET/PT), Andrea Kremer explores the NFL’s “magic potion” that “masks pain from head to toe.”

The wonder drug goes by the name of Toradol.  It’s not a narcotic, it’s not addictive, it’s legal to use.

And plenty of players are using it.

Former NFL center Jeremy Newberry tells Kremer that, when he played for the 49ers, players lined up for a dose of Toradol before games.  “I’ve seen lines of 20 or 30 of them standing there waiting for a shot,” Newberry.

The popular medication entails risks, including destruction of joints and damage to the stomach, liver, and kidneys.  And the players aren’t necessarily aware of those risks.

Kremer explained some of the risks on camera to Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher, who said he has used it throughout his career and compared it to a flu shot.  It was news to the 12-year veteran.  “No,” Urlacher said regarding potential gastrointestinal bleeding.  “I did not know that.”  As to a possible impact on kidney function?  “I did not know that.”

Now that Urlacher knows the risks, will he keep using Toradol?  “Even now knowing the risks I would still take the Toradol shot,” Urlacher said.  “And I probably will.”

Urlacher then echoed what we’ve heard so many times in so many contexts — football players want to play football.  He even mentioned, without prompting, the fact that he’d hide a concussion to play football.

And as we’ve said time and again, these grown men have the right to assume those risks in order to play pro football.  Far greater risks are taken by men and women who engage in far less lucrative professions.

The problem, of course, is that former players may feel differently after their careers end about the risks they took.  That’s why there’s a lawsuit pending against the NFL alleging that Toradol either masked or exacerbated concussions symptoms.  And that’s why the NFL and the NFLPA at some point need to come together and craft a comprehensive document that any player who plays in the NFL will sign, in which the player acknowledges that playing football and taking medications that will help players play football entail risks that the player freely is accepting in order to play pro football.

46 responses to “NFL’s “magic potion” has risks, players like Urlacher don’t care

  1. Heard on the radio today a former player state that the team doctor administered the shot. Never heard of the stuff before. How could it be kept a secret for so long? Lawsuits coming.

  2. Flash forward 20 yrs from now with Urlacher on TV complaining the NFL did him wrong & the current players aren’t taking care of him.

  3. Any average Joe prescribed Toradol is subject to the same risks. The majority of drugs on the market have some risk of decline in liver and/or kidney function with prolonged use. Urlacher is just going out and doing his job like most people in the country wish to do. Clearly each player (patient) and doctor establishes their individual risk and reward (pain relief) to make a decision, consistent with the national healthcare model (we’ll save that for another forum).

    As far as hiding concussions, well the NFL can only legislate so far. After all the facts have been presented to the players, they still have freedom of choice (so long as they appear to maintain consciousness, or at least not appear to lose consciousness, throughout the game).

  4. Stuff like this shows why all the wanting for testing for PEDs is a joke. Many players are tweeting about this saying people not “IN” on what goes on in the NFL & pro sports have no clue & they aren’t even close to the tip of the ice berg.

    When you are talking millions of dollars for the players, they are going to use whatever they have to to get on the field.

    & as fans, why do we even care? I don’t want to hear about cheating either. Drugs have been around forever. These guys have always found a way to get 1 up on the competition It’s just people were naive to it until the WWF brought steroids to light in the 1980’s.

  5. As a nurse who gives Torodol (ketorlac) nearly every day, I can safely say it is not supposed to be used repeatedly in short time periods. I.E. more than every 6 hrs for 48 hours max usually for a 15mg-30 mg dose.

    Indeed, torodol is an NSAID like ibuprofin (Advil), and if you take too much, your stomach will not be feeling very good at all. But once a week for a game? Now sure how bad that would be.

    Its a caustic drug, I have only given it IV, but I hear it burns when you give IM. Also burns IV if you push it too fast.

    Anyway, nothing Magic about it, just think of it as ‘super’ Ibuprofin and you got the idea. Its funny, my patients often don’t like it compared to narcotics (well I guess *SOME* patients don’t, others seem to be fine with it.)

  6. Having played football in high school and college…I can’t think of one guy that wouldn’t take something to get them thru a game or a season. Football HURTS. Everyone that played football has some lasting wear and tear on their body. The longer you play, the worse it is. Pro football players have to do anything they can to keep going. No where else will they make so much money. No matter what the risk.

  7. If the players never bothered to ask what they were being injected with, its kinda on them. I severely doubt trainers refused to tell them. Urlacher knew what he was being given and just never bothered to look it up.

  8. Anytime you take a medicine that makes pain go away you should just assume its bad for your liver and/or kidneys. Just tell the players the risks of the drug and let them take it if they want, they are grown men.

  9. Every year and half or so I will come down with terrible low back pain. It’s excruciating. I can hardly walk. So I go straight to my primary physician’s office and his assistant gives me a shot of Toradol in one cheek and a shot of Decadron in the other. Four to six hours later I’m essentially cured. No pain at all. Without the shots I’m bed-ridden for a week or more. So I’m taking the shots for as long as they’ll give them.

  10. How could it be kept a secret for so long?

    The sports media have been enablers.

    They need their access more than they need an expose’

  11. The biggest problem here, is not the NFL players doing this- but the trickle down of college and, even high school players doing – this and other types of drugs to in order to “perform”.

  12. 75% of the starting pitchers in MLB get a torodol shot before their start. Once every 5 days. Witnessed it for 13 yrs in MLB. That’s way more often than Sundays only. Stuff is rampant in MLB as well

  13. When you see the speed and power of the collisions, how could their bodies not require this type of medicine? I’m amazed these guys can walk let alone run 7 days after a game.

    I’ve been thinking alot about this topic lately — should I be enjoying football or should I feel guilty? I know I like watching but I sure am not letting my son play.

  14. @usmutts:

    If you have lower back pain caused by sciatica or disc compression, I would highly reccomend purchasing and using an inversion rack. That and a regimen to strengthen the back muscles.

    It may reduce the severity and duration of your attacks.

  15. Look, I’m a medical provider who actually can prescribe stuff. I also have NFL experience. I can tell you that tiraspol is nothing more than injectable ibuprofen. It also comes in pill form. It is not uncommon to give the “average joe” between 30 and 60 mg in a one time dose for anything from back pain to migraines. This stuff is VERY safe when given in weight appropriate doses! Ibuprofen has a very similar side effect profile. If the hydration status is fine, in an otherwise healthy person, this drug really isn’t an issue… Gotta live the media blowing stuff up!

  16. Toradol or Ketorolac is safe pain medication used for moderately severe pain. It does NOT have any risk that should alarm any user. It is as safe/risky as other NSAIDs including Tylenol and advil. All the side effect told to Urlacher also happen for Advil, Tylenol or any other NSAIDs.

  17. I was given Toradol for a kidney stone. Let me tell you, that stuff is GREAT. Kidney stones make you pray for death and this stuff knocked it right out.

    However, as the nurse and another poster said, it’s perfectly safe and really just super-Advil. If you look at the warnings on a bottle of Advil it will tell you there are stomach and cardiovascular risks. That’s why if you ever get prescription Ibuprofen the label says to take with food.

    Any medication will cause harm if you take too much of it.

  18. After reading the comment from the nurse above, this stuff doesn’t sound much different from my college roomie who popped Ipuprofin by the handful before practice every day…but that wasn’t a good idea, either.

    The bottom line is it is a sport that inevitably results in pain and guys have little choice but to take pain meds if they want to stay in the sport. It’s a vicious cycle.

  19. 8man,

    Thanks for the tip on the inversion rack. I’ll check it out. Yes, at my age it’s disc dessication that’s the culprit, as x-rays have confirmed. No trouble, though, in a long time. Back running again. Wife and I ran a half-marathon two weeks ago. No trouble. Life is good.

  20. Have you ever heard a drug ad on TV? There are potentially 100’s of side effects of every drug. I’m sure Kramer was just reading the laundrey list. Let’s get some more information on this before everybody gets their knickers in a bunch. And the dude writing this post is the ring leader for trying to make mole hills into mountains. Let’s hope we don’t have to suffer through 10 posts a day on this now. It would be a huge Super Bowl buzz kill….

  21. Now Toradol also can cause severe health issues in some people. I was given it as a muscle relaxer for some abdominal pain about 5 years ago. Two days later I had excruciating back pain that got worse and worse. I eventually went to the ER and my hospital only to find out that my kidneys were shutting down. I got a toxic reaction to the Toradol that made my normal renal counts (around a 1.0) jump to a 6.5! I was in the hospital for a week…bedridden waiting for the Toradol to flush out of my system. It was the most horrible pain I’ve ever experienced and would never let a vial of that get near me again.

  22. As a pharmacist at a hospital who sees this prescribed every day, I find it kind of comical that a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug like Ketorolac (which has been around for decades) is being reported on like some underground, sketchy, magic drug.

    It’s in the same class as Ibuprofen (advil/motrin), Naproxen (aleve/Naprosyn) Diclofenac, etc. etc. People use these meds for pain all the time.

    Ketorolac IS one of the worst in terms of risk of GI bleeds and acute renal failure, and for that reason isn’t typically used for more than 3-5 consecutive days. That being said, if people are in pain + have inflammation, there is nothing insidious or illicit about it. NFL teams just have crappy doctors and/pharmacists who don’t know how to counsel these players on risks and side effects of medication (either that or players like Urlacher are too dumb to listen).

  23. As a kidney stone sufferer I can say that when those suckers start moving around Toradol is a downright Godsend. Seriously, the pain goes from debilitating to non-existent in about 5 minutes. Of course using it once every couple years is quite different than once (or more) per week.

  24. Two Things:

    1. With players getting as chewed up as much as they do from playing the game … how in good conscience can the NFL suits continue to push for an 18-game regular season schedule?

    2. With a 53-man roster – why is there a taxi squad consisting of a group of players who are not allowed to suit up for a game? Why not suit up everyone? Maybe one or two of these guys wouldn’t have to play in pain if the number of available players was larger. Besides – I have to pay for 100% of my ticket … why not suit up 100% of the players?

  25. Just a couple of points (and reasons why people should NOT dispense medical advice online)

    1) Tylenol is a pain reliever NOT an NSAID (aka “anti-inflammatory”)

    2) Toradol IS an NSAID…NOT a “muscle relaxant” which is a completely different class of medications

    3) Every medication has side effects, possible allergic reactions, etc. it is also possible to get too much of almost any substance, even water believe it or not. Taken in correct doses, most medications are safe…

    4) Pain sucks! I hope these guys don’t overdo their meds and put even more stress on their bodies than the game already does…

  26. Someone hit me on the head with a case of Toradol. I had headaches for weeks. It should be banned.

  27. The true risk is to the guys who are using high doses of anti-inflammatory meds every day. You hear about it more often in NBA players who are taking them just to hit the court 4 or 5 times a week. I know people wondered if Alonzo Mourning’s kidney failure was a result of his long term use and Shaq mentioned at the time of his retirement he was to the point of taking so many he was defecating blood.

    For a guy who is hurling his body at people as a blunt force projectile every week things like kidney failure surely seem like a small risk that might only be paid somewhere down the road. In some ways having this controlled by a team doctor might actually be helping control the situation instead of just downing a handful of pills every morning like Nick Nolte in North Dallas Forty.

  28. The “magic potion” Toradol is used in emergency rooms across America. It has similar side effects to ibuprofen.

    When did Andrea Kramer start working for the National Enquirer? This “report” has about as much credibility as the latest Elvis sighting.

  29. Kidney and intestinal issues are common to NSAIDs. What’s not common about Toradol is that it is meant for short term use to address acute pain.

    In some countries its use is limited to hospital settings and treatments are limited to a period of a few days.

    It’s also not used pre-operatively or in conjunction with anaesthesia because of its potential to affect clotting. I am not sure I’d want to play football whilst taking a drug that will not only help to mask injuries but also increases the potential for internal bleeding.

  30. Pan now to that ridiculous commercial for some drug or another where the man watches people riding down a large hill on bicycles, and comments with great gravity how as a child he rode down this hill without a helmet, “taking some pretty crazy risks”. ARE YOU NUTS!!!!!?? No helmet!!!???

  31. What’s next…………The bad side effects of Gatorade.

    It is nothing more than taking (4-5) Advil before a game. The shot just gets it into you bloodstream quicker.

  32. Why wouldn’t this be considered performance enhancing? Something that numbs you from head to toe would enhance any performance when involved in a contact sport. Throw the laws out and legalize it all.

  33. Is that the same shot that Jon Voight was told that “He that needle goes anywhere near that knee I’m gonna rip off your arms and beat you with ’em” on Varsity Blues?

    But no, football players like almost everybody else, don’t care and will not care until they are out of the league and a problem stemming from their ignorance flares. People who smoke care less about the dangers until they find out they have cancer. People who eat tons of candy don’t care about their teeth until they finally go to a dentist and are told that the extreme pain they are in means several teeth have to be removed. This is due to the excessive duration of time from the CAUSE to the EFFECT. This differes from the immediate cause and effect from other stupid choices: Speeding on icy roads, playing with fire…

  34. Good article, how come no one in the media discusses the use of smelling salts (which has been blatantly broadcast across the airwaves all season, including in last weekends AFC championship game)

    Dunno if nfl players should just be blasting poppers in to their nostrils whenever they want

  35. “Gladiators who are about to die, salute you” loosely translated of course…. I guess this Toradol is better than smoking crack to deal with the pain.

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