Former players say they were never warned about painkiller side effects

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The mainstream news media continues to take significant notice of the latest lawsuit filed by former players against the NFL.

On Thursday’s edition of NBC’s Today, two of the plaintiffs discussed the situation during a studio interview, J.D. Hill and Ron Pritchard.

“We had medication to go to sleep before games,” Hill told Matt Lauer. “We had painkillers before the game, we had painkillers at halftime, painkillers after the game. Then you would get beer. No one ever told us [about the effects].”

The players wanted the drugs so that they could play; the argument is that the doctors made it too easy.

“Why are they putting it on the shelf for me to take?” Pritchard said. “Are they wrong for having it there?  They put it there for a reason and in that culture and that competition and that level of football and athletics, it’s going to happen. They knew you were going to take that pill.”

“We didn’t know about [the side effects],” Hill said. “We didn’t know we should even have that information.”

The NFL responded with a written statement provided by Dr. Matthew Matava, president of the NFL Physicians Society.

“As the president of the NFL Physicians Society, I am surprised by this lawsuit,” Dr. Matava said in the statement. “As an NFL team doctor for the past 14 years, I have seen first hand the outstanding medical care that team doctors provide to players on and off the field. I will leave it to others to respond to the specific allegations of the lawsuit, but as doctors we put our players first.”

That may be the case now. The question is whether the NFL’s doctors followed that approach in the past, or whether they did whatever they had to do to ensure that the players would be able to play.

For decades, it was believed that some if not many (if not all) NFL physicians managed the inherent conflict of interest between their patients (the players) and their employers (the teams) by doing whatever needed to be done to allow players to play — especially since the players wanted to play.  That culture, to the extent it existed, has changed.  All that’s left to decide is whether that culture, to the extent it existed, creates liability for the NFL.

If it’s true that doctors provided prescription medication to players without ever providing information about the potential side effects to the players, that’s a problem for the NFL. While a plausible argument can be made that the league wasn’t fully aware of the extent of the risks of concussions until the last 5-7 years, the risks of FDA-regulated prescription medications typically are known from the moment the drugs are approved for use.  Even if the players still would have taken the medications with knowledge of the risks, federal law requires that information to be provided.

39 responses to “Former players say they were never warned about painkiller side effects

  1. Cry me a freaking river. You’re grown men.

    Take responsibility for yourself and make better decisions. You lived in the moment and had too much pride to sit the next game out so you did whatever it took.

    You couldn’t have cared less about the side-effects at the time.

  2. So the general public is well aware of the pitfalls of pain killers, but the somewhat educated football players can’t figure it out. right !

  3. Fortunately the lawsuit will be based on the past as opposed to the present or the future. The doctors sound like they are out of luck. Unless of course they want to provide proof that they provided these warnings and that they actually cared about the players as a top priority such that they were put first. It sounds like a bald-faced lie. If I was on the jury I’d add 10% extra to the award for this insensitive and ridiculous comment alone.

  4. This is on par with suing McDonalds because you didn’t realize the coffee which burns your mouth when you drink it would burn your lap if you weren’t careful.

    Injecting something into your body that prevents you from feeling pain isn’t good for you. I don’t need a medical degree to know that. Drinking after getting something injected into you to prevent pain is even dumber. We learned that in DARE in fifth grade.

  5. How do these so called “men” function in everyday life? Well no one ever told me that if I drive 85 mph into a brick wall I might die? No one ever told me that if I drink alcohol I might get tipsy. My 6 yr old son asks more questions when I give him cold medicine, than these so called men. I feel no pity for them whatsoever, in fact I’m starting to resent them more and more.

  6. I could understand these players coming out with this information as part of the story about their era of Football. That’s the way it was. But seeking settlements with a law suit so many years after the fact is just a move for money (and attention or relevancy).

    Their attempt to paint themselves as victims who had no say in the matter makes them look like whining, blaming children. Sad, actually.

  7. There should be a statute of limitations on things like this. Suing 30 or 40 years after the fact is ridiculous, but I guess you have to wait until the league is raking in money before your social conscience kicks in.

    Also from listening to some of these guys talk, it sounds like they were caught up in the drug culture of the 70’s and early 80’s. This wasn’t a NFL problem it was a society problem.

  8. Give me a break. Just because you didn’t invest your money properly and think you don’t have to work after a 5 year NFL career and your broke doesn’t mean you have to blame the NFL for all your problems. If anything the NFL helped you. If you didn’t know you can get a concussion from getting hit in the head and if you didn’t know medications have side effects you are a complete moron and deserve to be broke.

  9. When you got paid top dollars to “play”, you have the right to be ignorant.

    If you really care for the future players, don’t seek compensation. It is all about your own benefit.

  10. Love him or hate him, Colin Cowherd has really the best grasp on this. The players need to take some responsibility at some point here. This is the fat people suing McDonalds for making them fat all over again.

  11. Not being told is on the players for not asking.

    If they asked and were lied to, that would be on the teams, doctors, etc.

  12. “Well golly, coach. I don’t want to go back in the game with this deep thigh bruise. Those painkillers might make me low fertility 10 years from now.”

  13. Can’t wait for the players to “prove” that they were never told….

    Even if they were told, not that many of them would likely remember…much less they could conveniently “forget” nowadays in hopes of a payoff…

  14. Could I have a piece of the NFL pie too? I’m worried, the greed could take this game down. Eventually, there will be lawsuits which will require to change the game in a way it may not be able to be fixed. I’m not saying this year, or 5 years, but 10 years+ this game could be looking real different.

  15. North Dallas Forty covered the dangers of pain killing injections. How many years ago was that?? The players are grasping at straws here, they knew the risks. They didn’t care, they wanted to play.

  16. NO one is warned about the lasting side effects of prescription pain killers.

    It would be bad for the pain killer business if they did that.

  17. No one is telling parents or kids who attend public schools of what the side effects will be in terms of their education (or lack thereof).

    These players KNEW that there are side effects with every medical, herb, illegal drug, food, drink, women, etc. Lawyers never stop seeking victimhood for any group that hey themselves can victimize for a payday.

  18. Man, Stupidity must have been a requirement back in the day to play football. They didn’t know anything, about anything. Every new law suit claims “We didn’t know”. Cmon man

  19. i feel bad when i hear stuff like this.

    You guys ever hear Bernie Kosar talk?

    He sounds like hes had 10 beers when he’s sober.


  20. really? you had no idea of the side effects? get serious guys! This is nothing more than an attempt to get money from the NFL. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, no one put a gun to your head and forced you to play football, you did it voluntarily and got paid to do it, not the money players do today but in the time you played you were paid fairly well.

  21. There are risks in playing the stock market, maybe ppl who lose big should sue the SEC and EVERY Federal govt agency that oversees Wall Street b/c they failed to protect them from losing.

    Everyone is a victim in the eyes of a lawyer.

  22. How come these players can sue the NFL for this kind of crap yet people can’t sue employers for getting cancer from second hand smoke due to other employees including some employers smoking in the office or right outside the doorway? I would say second hand smoke should have a better case but they don’t.

  23. At the next labor negotiation, Goodell can say “if you allow us to increase the regular season to 18 games, then we’ll give you back the hippocratic oath.”

  24. So let me see if I get this…… You mean to tell me that when you inject man-produced chemicals into your body there could be adverse effects?! My word! lol. C’mon guys….really? Also, the Human Body works in a certain way. Severe, debilitating pain is it’s way to get your attention saying ‘Hey Stupid, stop doing that!’ and when you inject those chemicals into your body you are essentially telling your body to “Shut up! I do what I want!” Does that ever work out? I’m embarrassed by what we are becoming as a society. Every darn thing is somebody elses fault. We seem to have lost the ability to be accountable. What a shame…

  25. Chris Carter had two excellent points on this on the Mike and Mike show. First, why sue the NFL? no TEAM doctor has a contract with the NFL. They have contracts with the teams. Second. If you didn’t know the side effects you don’t care about your own body. These aren’t ER docs where you can’t respond. When has it ever been a good idea to take painkillers and alcohol? If you had an inkling that the team doctor was just hiding an injury with painkillers, they could’ve taken their lazy butts to a family doctor. If they were so used to having people inject them with substances, you wonder what else they were injecting.

  26. My doctor never runs down the side effects of any prescriptions he gives. I do that myself online. If I don’t like them, I don’t take the drug or call in for a different script. Players need to start taking some responsibility. They CHOOSE to pursue a dangerous profession. I don’t see Alaskan crab fishermen suing everyone. The NFL needs to start making players sign waivers. It’s getting stupid with these lawsuits.

  27. Everything those players are saying about the way meds were distributed in the past is true. If you’re a fan of the game, you should read North Dallas Forty, the tell-all novel by former Cowboys receiver Peter Gent, who played in the 60s. (It’s a much darker story than the film adaptation.) Teams routinely shot up seriously injured players to get them back on the field without caring whether they wound up crippled for life. And most of those players were making fairly low salaries. It was a different game in those days when athletes were used and thrown away like tissues.

    Does that happen today? Probably not. The business has changed. While they’ve fudged on the long-term risks of traumatic brain injury, they’ve become more careful about inflicting further damage to a knee that could knock out a multi-million-dollar commodity for a season.

    As a fan, I’m tired of the lawsuits. But I know the older players have a case.

  28. Professional sports are not for the feint of heart. It’s a dog-eat-dog business.
    Former Steelers running back Jerome Bettis has often talked with pride about how he manipulated the Steelers’ medical staff in order to not just remain in the lineup but to also remain on the team. In other words, he lied about injuries.
    If doctors lie or withhold information, so do the players. If the NFL did, in fact, invent manipulation, the players learned well and have taken their manipulation to another level. These lawsuits need to stop.

  29. Wow, A new low for the American legal system.

    I just want to make sure I understand this correctly, a bunch of college educated men didn’t think there were any side effects from taking medications. Aside from that if you are in pain, many of us have learned at a young age to take a break from what you are doing. Most health classes, even back then, taught that pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong.

    I may be able to understand this if the people involved were poorly educated, illiterate, sheltered individuals. But these people knew nothing is free (see the hours they spent in the gym’s and on the field to get to play Pro). They also had a number of options as opposed to taking the pain killers.

    I really hope the judge throws this lawsuit out. Enough is enough. What next we sue Pepsi for teeth rotting out because it doesnt state on the bottle may cause tooth decay ?

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