Former players claim NFL illegally used painkillers to mask injury

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As the concussion lawsuits move toward settlement (unless they don’t), the NFL has a new wave of litigation about which to worry.

Via the Associated Press, a new class action has been filed against the NFL alleging that the league illegally used prescription pain-killers to mask injuries and to allow players to keep playing.

The named plaintiffs include Bears Hall of Fame defensive end Richard Dent and former Bears quarterback Jim McMahon.

This new wave of litigation will present some of the same challenges for the players as the concussion lawsuits.  First, the league will argue that any relief must be pursued not in the court system but through private arbitration.  Second, the league will argue that the players assumed all or part of the risk of long-term health consequences by taking what they had to take to play.

If the players can prove that doctors prescribed painkillers improperly and/or failed to adequately explain the risks of chronic use, the players could be able to overcome some of the various hurdles.

Still, it will be a long, slow process.  As it always seems to be when both the complexity level and the stakes are high.

82 responses to “Former players claim NFL illegally used painkillers to mask injury

  1. Now this case is a slam dunk. If the players didn’t take the pills, they were vilified as pansies and “me” players. NFL essentially FORCED their employees to pill up. I hope this is the suit that finally makes Cubans prophecy come true. Then, a REAL fan-friendly league will rise from the ashes.

  2. Just another needed settlement on the horizon. Maybe the NFL should have skipped setting up a concussion settlement and negotiated a price for an umbrella settlement to cover all circumstances that may or may not be related to broken laws.

  3. I’m sure they used painkillers to, well, kill the pain. Which, by definition, would make them feel better and would/could allow them to play. So… of course they did. Is it right? Yep. Is it also wrong? Yep. Is it a surprise??? Not even a little.

  4. The sad part of all of these law suits are that some ex players do need help and were probably lied to by coaches and doctors. Now, you’ll have a bunch of ex players in finacial trouble jump on this law suit.

  5. …And the player illegally took them knowing they were illegal. All parties are guilty. Bunch of money hungry broke former players…should have saved some of that money.

  6. So in other words, the players already spent the money they anticipated from the concussion lawsuit but haven’t gotten yet and now need another revenue stream.

  7. Old news.
    I’ve been watching football for 45 years, and it has always been common knowledge that players took pain-killers to mask pain. Go watch the movie, “North Dallas Forty,” circa 1970s.

  8. Something not work out your way? Was anyone who has money involved? Sue them! Get a big check! And if anyone points out what you are doing might be wrong, call them a hater!!

  9. Like you didn’t know what you were breathing when you entered the coal mine. You had a choice, and you chose to play a violent, demanding, and sometimes debilitating game. Now, you want to blame someone else, and make some cash in the process.

  10. Sure, NFL teams want their stars to play, but the players have greater motivation in that they want to play and extend their lucrative NFL careers as long as possible. Then they want to turn around, act like they didn’t know what they were doing and blame the NFL? I sympathize many may be broke and/or have disabilities, and injuries weren’t as well understood back in the day, but they chose to take the risks and play. I think it’s disingenuous to turn around and try to shake down the league for money this long after the fact.

  11. What about the idea of fans accepting the idea that these men are crippling themselves for life, for our entertainment? It’s got a bit of a Roman Empire feel to it.

  12. you know what? the raison d’être of pain killers is to dull pain. gonna have a hard time finding any legal theory to latch on there. Are we supposed to believe they were led to believe that when they took the pill they thought they were magically cured? you knew why you were taking those pills: to mask the pain so you could play.

  13. Is billy Bob or lance harbor from varsity blues on the lawsuit?

    “Can he play !?!?”

  14. So if a doctor prescribes a pain killer for me after I smack my thumb with a hammer while at work then go back to work he’s guilty of illegally dispensing them? Do I not take an aspirin out of the med kit at the job since that’s a pain killer too? Do I sue my employer for providing a medical kit?

    I no longer have to read the warnings or ask a question such as, “Will these cause me to become a zombie?”

    In short I have no responsibility for what I take. The new American way.

  15. I so sick of these whiny players looking for a quick payday.

    Just like the concussion lawsuit. These poor babies had no idea this game was violent and dangerous and the league made them do it…

    If I’m the NFL…all new rookies that come in sign waivers because these lawsuits are nothing more than a money grab. This is just like suing Budweiser because you drank yourself to death.

  16. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. I have no trouble believing that the NFL would do the alleged actions. But proving that the drugs used were used illegally? How can you prove that to satisfy even a civil court? It’s an iffy suit, I think.

    But if somehow they can win the suit…OW.

  17. Verdict: Richard Dent and Jim McMahon are washed up broke and looking for a hand out.

    Case dismissed.

  18. I’ve got a headache from all the crap these ex players are suing the league for. Maybe I can squeeze out a few thousand dollars from the league too

  19. It seems to me that Roger Godell is not the only one who wants to see the NFL ground into dust… Apparently many former players see this as the time to bankrupt the league.

    It’s a shame because I love football.

  20. Aren’t the players arguing to be allowed to smoke marijuana to assist them with pain management? So as long as they get the drug of their choice, they won’t file law suits?? Come on.

    Just to be clear, I believe the NFL screwed the players on long term effects of concussions, but the rest of this is bogus money grabs by players who thought they would be able to “retire” at age 35 and never work another day, instead of transitioning to another career. That’s why you actually go to class while you are in college.

  21. Remember when players who had to be sidelined for a play or two often were diagnosed with a stinger? What ever happened to that word?

  22. I am pretty sure that Jim McMahon’s claim is going to be that the painkillers made him squander all of his money.

  23. Players CHOSE to take those meds so they would be able to play, because THEY WANTED TO PLAY.
    Think Darrell Gren’s story about take the shot/don’t take the shot in the playoffs after he got injured vs Chicago…He made his own choice. These guys made their own choices and now want to pretend the NFL is to blame. I do feel bad for guys like Leroy Hoard and the many others, but this is what they chose to do for a living.

  24. Pain Killer… taken that to lessen pain… pain is typically the bodys response to injury… hmmmm did they have to spell it out for them? I mean come on… You cant fix stupid.

  25. C’mon!! I stomached the first lawsuit on the grounds of sympanthy for those ailing but we have to draw the line somewhere. At what point do we say the heck with the law and base a verdict on common sense? Richard Dent and McMahon were/are grown men and they chose to play the game. No one made them play. They had every right to quit like Jim Brown and Barry Sanders but they did not. This is nonsense.

  26. You would have had to drag those players off the field to prevent them from playing. They begged for something to take to kill the pain so they could stay in the games. And I better not see Jack Youngblood trying to sue anybody because he played with a broken leg. He’s the poster boy for playing injured. And how many of us watch the old Packer highlights of Ray Nitschke running down the field on one leg after an interception. These guys think these lawsuits are easy money now.

  27. wow I just lost respect for Richard Dent and Jim McMahon…

    especially McMahon we all knew he was playing hurt…
    I coulda swore he knew too…

  28. wait…you claim players take pain meds that they aren’t legally prescribed?

    whaaaaaaaaaaat? next you will tell me players get in trouble for smoking weed but not for taking pain meds

    wait, that too?

  29. BS! Doctors prescribe medications. The patient usually requests it but at a minimum approves it and they knowingly take the drugs. These claims make them look like despicable money grabbing scam artists. They should have to pay restitution for making such ridiculous claims… Especially when you consider they did anything to stay on the field.

  30. NFL players aren’t doing anything for “our entertainment”…do you really think they give a crap if people watch them do their job?? Sitting at home thinking “I wonder what the fans are doing today?” Only people who care are the owners and the networks.

  31. My boss told me to take an advil for my headache so i can sell some insurance today.

  32. I think we have all witnessed players getting a shot on the sidelines so they could return to the game. With all the lip service from the NFL about their “stance” against drugs, I’m sure players were told these painkillers were temporary, non-addicting, and for the short term so they could continue to help their team get a win(and keep their job). Funny how fans don’t mind players getting the win at any cost, then are the first to jump on the bandwagon and accuse them of being greedy, money grubbing opportunist. I’m sure the concussion lawsuit was the tip of the iceberg, this allegation of promoting the use of painkillers seems indisputable and, next up PTSD and proven research linking brain trauma to personality changes, violence (domestic abuse, assaults, etc) and substance abuse. Seems like the smart thing for the NFL would be to get in front of these issues and help players rather than handing down suspensions, fines, etc. for behavior they had a hand in creating or exacerbating. Time for the NFL to own up and have a little class; they are responsible for setting the tone for the future of professional football.

  33. If this means that these injuries were not included in the weekly injury reports, that could mean big trouble…

  34. First… Concussions.. Now painkillers … Up next steroids… Man, those Steeler players from the 70’s ( the ones still alive) are gonna cash in then…

  35. There is only one way to fix this for future players.
    Have them sign a form and if they say no,well Mr
    football player we hope you learned something in

  36. At first I was on the players side. The big bad nfl is screwing us and I bought it. Now I’m 100 percent behind the nfl. These guys played like wild animals and would run through brick walls if asked or even not asked. Now they are physically beat up and they see how the young guys are getting paid off of the blood they shed on the field and they’re pissed. Total money grab. Life is hard. You knew what was going on and the possible consequences and you did it anyway. Bummer . Move on to phase two of your life.

  37. Sounds like some players wasted their money, are now broke, and are looking for a quick payday.

  38. Are these players by any chance broke? I’ll bet they are. Jim McMahon has had all sorts of problems with life for ages.

  39. There has been a increased education over the years regarding the use of pain killers. I’m not sure they were seen in the same light as they are today. Irregardless, culpability exists on both sides. The misguided mindset of playing through the pain was generally present in all of the football world. I’m sure it’s still there to a degree today.

  40. You owner slurpers are dumb. The team forced the players to take the pills to keep them on the field. If the players refused, they were labeled pansies and their careers were effectively diminished.

    Easy to say, “go get another job then” when it’s not your money being counted. That aside, the players were CONTRACTUALLY BOUND TO PLAY and couldn’t simply “get another job”. Wise up or don’t comment. You make Americans sound stupid.

  41. I think every player who wore the orange and baby blue uniforms the Donks wore in the 80’s should be entitled to some form of restitution. That had to be traumatizing.

  42. Imagine that…

    An industry that promotes pain killers and demonizes/criminalizes marijuana.

    One day the rest of the world will catch up to Washington & Oregon.

  43. Wow!!!
    I wonder how many doctors & trainers it took to hold down those guys & shove the pain killers down their throats ??? Lol
    Just another BIG heads up to the veterans & Rookies save some dam money football isn’t forever. …

  44. For the folks giving thumbs down to comments that say the NFL is guilty…

    We all know that in the 80’s, 90’s and even up to today there are players who hide when they have a concussion in order to stay on the field and keep playing.

    Also, forget concussions and simply go with when players are hurt, ones that play THROUGH injuries like that one QB in the playoffs a few years ago and then when the other QB did NOT play through a knee injury in the playoffs…

    The one who did NOT play through it was vilified by us fans on boards like these… yet, if those same players take pills to be out there for US and then they have problems later on in their lives, we vilify them for going after money.

    It looks like WE the fans want it both ways… be tough players, gut it out, do what it takes to stay out there, be a man… oh and when you retire and you can barely walk and can’t function well at all in your 50’s and then realize that they teams were doing what they could to keep you on the field…

    Players KNOW that if they can’t play, they can’t lose their job or get cut…

    And WHO is it that cuts them? Why it’s the TEAM of course…

    Players DO face pressure to play, remain on the field and play through and with pain and many injuries…

    We WANT them out there and then we put them down when they want compensation for it…

    We’re hypocrites…

  45. If there is any lawsuit out there against the NFL, chances are Jim McMahon is a part of it. He never misses an opportunity to receive a handout.

  46. We are all at fault here to be honest. The players want to get paid top dollar , and we wanna see a brutal game at it’s best with it’s best players on the field regardless how hurt they are.

  47. Don’t think the ’85 Bears were saying, “take this mystery pill and play, else we cut you(RDent and JMcMahon) on Monday.”

  48. Correct me if I’m wrong but don’t the majority of NFL players have to spend at least 2 years in College? One would think that if you have spent a minimum of 2 years of your life at an institute of higher learning you could read, write, understand English and posses the ability to make an informed decision. That being said when will these grown men for once in their life realize that and they alone are responsible for thier own decisions. Take some responsibility for their actions and quit trying to blame everybody else for their greed and stupidity?

  49. I’ve gotta say, I’m a little shocked by the responses on here. If the allegations are true (that NFL doctors lied about injuries and medications), that is a huge deal.

    And the argument that players knew what they signed up for is silly – they’re suing because they didn’t sign up to be lied to, especially by doctors.

  50. This is getting stupid. It’s like the McDonalds hot coffee lawsuit. Players saying “they weren’t told” is such BS. If I am in intense pain, I know something is wrong. I know that if I take a pain killer to dull the pain, I am still actually injured. If I decide to continue with an activity, that is my problem. Playing through injury is part of the culture of every sport. Tiger woods won the US Open on one leg. Even golf has it. It is not the NFL’s fault.

    Totally frivolous and a waste of time and money.

  51. These guys made more money in a handful of years than most of us will make in a lifetime of work and they pissed it away and now are trying to sue the league. Talk about “entitlement”. I am getting so tired of this crap. Enough is enough.

  52. Funny I thought that was what painkillers were made for, to mask pain so you could function at whatever you do.

    When I was in the hospital and had minor surgery, guess what the doctors gave me to mask the pain so I could recover and function ?

    When I injured my lower back guess what the doctors gave me in addition to a brace to mask the pain so I could recover and function ?

    When I had an infected tooth guess what the dentist gave me to mask the pain so I could function while the antibiotics kicked in ?

    When I tore a muscle in my arm guess what the doctors gave me to mask the pain so I could function ?

    Did anyone not guess painkillers ?

  53. If the 85 Bears were on painkillers that gave them an advantage. They could hit an opponent — I mean really jack him up — and feel next to nothing. Asteisk

  54. So was that how the Bears won the Super Bowl in 86? We had one team cocaine and another on percs! Nice

  55. Unless they were held down and force fed the drugs I would say in was voluntary.

  56. The Viking fans should be suing the NFL for illegally telling them there was a professional football team in Minnesota for the last 20 years.

  57. And if the do NOT take the pain killers and don’t get back out on the field… many times they lose their position or even their place on the team…

    There is SUCH a culture of being tough in the NFL, man up, take it, play through it and it is REAL…

    The TEAMS certainly play their part in this too by benching players or cutting them when they are hurt or can’t perform.

    Some on here are saying things like hey I know when I’m hurt and if I talk a pain killer I know I’m still hurt and that it’s the players fault for going out there when they are hurt.

    Well, over the decades as the league grew, if many of those players did NOT go back out there and the REALITY of that situation included taking pain killers etc… then many of them DID lose their jobs…

    When you’re 24 yrs old, 26 yrs old you don’t always think about what you’ll be like when your 51 yrs old and players in yesteryear did that LESS than folks of today do…

    Players from the late 70’s and 80’s played the game when the culture was much different…

    Woulda been hard for the Bears to do the Super Bowl Shuffle if about 9 or 10 of their players were OUT of the league BEFORE they went to and won the Super Bowl… because they were hurt and decided to remain on the sidelines…

    While the coaches were telling them you’re not doing us any good on the sidelines… go see doc and get some pills and get your candy azz back out here…

    so many of us would have done the SAME thing…

  58. Every time there is a class action suit against the NFL that involves former players, Jim McMahon is one of those former players. I get that he’s in really bad shape and I feel for what he has to go through, but putting his name on every lawsuit makes him sound like he’s saying “I need money” more than “I’m suffering”

  59. The problem I have with this, like the Concussion Law Suit, is you know, there are players out there that would lie to the coaches, trainers, etc, to get back in the game. We have all heard interviews with past players, that said they told the team they were fine so they could get back out there. Now they want to sue? I don’t like the hypocrisy of it.

    The players knew it was a dangerous sport when they signed up. They new it would beat up their bodies. To me, in my own worthless opinion, it is no different than me, as a firefighter, suing my employer because I got burned in a fire. I know the risks and so did they.

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