Ditka on painkillers: “If you don’t want to take them, don’t take them”

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Several members of the ’85 Bears have sued the NFL for, among other things, giving them painkillers without warning them of the risks and side effects.  Their old-school coach has commented on the topic, applying a predictably old-school attitude.

“If you don’t want to take them, don’t take them,” Mike Ditka told the Chicago Sun-Times.  “I don’t think anybody ever forces anyone to do anything.  If you don’t want to take it, don’t take it. If you wanted it, they were available.  There’s no question about that.  Is that right?  I don’t know.”

It’s only right if they knew the risks when making the decision to take the drugs.  Without knowing the risks, they could take anything if they think it would help them get back onto the field, from steroids to strychnine.

The NFL has a right to defend itself against the new suit, but it’s wrong for anyone to attack players who chose to take medications without being given — by the doctors who were obligated to care for them — information about the risks and side effects.

Would some of the players have taken the medication anyway?  Sure.  Would some of the coaches (like Ditka) have pressured them to take the medication so that they’d be able to play?  Do I even need to answer that?

None of it matters if the doctors didn’t bother to share the risks with the players.  If that’s the case, the players bear no blame because they never had the chance to consciously assume the risk.

Would we have it any other way for our family members or for ourselves?  Don’t we expect doctors to tell us the potential risks of taking prescription medication?  For some of the drugs advertised on TV, some of the items on the list of possible side effects sound a lot worse than the condition the medication is supposed to treat.

Everyone is entitled to know that information, regardless of the impact of the information on their decision to take the medication.

92 responses to “Ditka on painkillers: “If you don’t want to take them, don’t take them”

  1. Well said Mike! These guys are cry babies who don’t know how to manage their money and that’s why they need to sue for money now.

  2. An old school guy calling it like it is. To play a violent sport and not think it will affect you long term means you’re ignorant. These old players are running out if money and are upset because they aren’t smart enough to hold down a real job after football. #getaclue

  3. “Coach Ditka, I can’t play with this plantar faceitis and refuse to take a cortisone or torodol shot…”

  4. I’m with Ditka on this one. It’s up to you to ask what you’re putting in your body. If I go to the doctor and am prescribed something, the doctor doesn’t just start rattling off side effects.

  5. I wish more people today would have an “old school” attitude. Would make the world a much better place than todays every bad thing that happens to you is someone elses fault attitude.

  6. Yeah that’s right, thanks for clearing that up.

    On a similar issue, how about that money for the painkiller transgressions that the NFL committed notwithstanding that we already agree on your point of which has nothing to do with the NFL’s liability?

  7. Whether they were told or not, they had to know there were possible side effects. In the heat of battle, who cares about side effects?

  8. What about those marginal players who , if don’t take them are then replaced or later cut ? Not everyone taking pain killers to play are superstars most are players fighting to stay on the team .

  9. It’s almost like playing football is detrimental to one’s health. It’s a shame these guys don’t make any money to be compensated for their time playing…

  10. Whatever happened to “first, do no harm”? Seems to me it’s the team doctors who bear the responsibility to dispense medical advise like this. If they put their paycheck from the team above their medical ethics, then they should be the ones being sued.

  11. Another part of the old school attitude (that largely remains intact to this day) is…

    Son, you aren’t helping the team if you aren’t on the field…

    The coach does NOT have to tell them to take pain pills…

    They lose their starting position or even get cut if they aren’t helping the team.

    Lower level coaches say it, teammates say it… “man ya gotta get yo azz on the field brotha”.

    There is and has always been a LOT of pressure to do what it takes to get out there and play… and that pressure does NOT include a coach walking up to a player and saying “better take these pills #82”.

    Could be that when a player returns to his locker from practice there are the want ads taped to his locker with a burger flipping job circled…

    That’ll get the attention of a player…

  12. I played football and I was unaware banging my head into a wall would give me a concussion, they also had drugs available for pain that no one forced me to take, but how was I to know drugs were addictive, even if I did attend a major university, you cannot expect me to have any common sense.

  13. The part of this suit that no one seems to be talking about is the allegations that the docs were not informing the players of their actual injuries but lying to them about the nature and severity of the injury. That, to me, is the most important aspect of this case.

  14. Maybe they should have educated themselves on what they were taking before doing so. Why does it always have to be someone else’s fault?

  15. The players then sued Ditka for all the times he made them “tape an aspirin to it”.

  16. yo Ditka is smart. All man too. And the mustache… I don’t know what he is hiding but it must be good.

  17. all they need to do is go back and watch one of the original NFL movies, “North Dallas Forty” — Hollywood got this one right.


  18. I think we need to quit applying the sensitivities of 2014 to things that happened 30 years ago.

    If you weren’t all over it then, the statute of limitations for outrage has run out.

    Man up.

  19. The fact that the players had access to narcotic medication without a prescription is the real problem here.
    As a doctor, I am extremely careful to make sure my narcotic prescriptions to patients are for clearly documented medical conditions easily found in their medical record.
    The players that took these medications without a prescription in their name were committing a felony, and I suspect the doctor writing the prescriptions would also be in danger of losing their license.
    This rabbbit hole will only get deeper, because these pain medicines are just pharmaceutical heroin.

  20. The players bear no blame? Baloney, unless they asked about side effects and were lied to by their team staff. Otherwise, I say these were grown men, not children. If these guys took the meds no questions asked, and I’m guessing some did, that’s on them.

  21. So tired of grown men not taking responsibility for their actions. I know plenty of people who take pain killers either after a surgery or some other circumstance and they not have I ever gotten addicted!

  22. Shame on Mike because he knows (though he may not remember) the pressure to get back on the field and that the players NEVER REALLY HAD ANY CHOICE.

    It was always, you play or you jeopardize your position. That pressure is there at every level, but at it’s highest in the NFL.

    The NFL can’t wish this away. There’s not a player who ever played that didn’t feel like he had to take whatever the trainer gave him to play.

    Unlike concussions, this touches every player.

  23. Wrongfully prescribing pain medications has always been illegal. Ditka obviously feels conflicted about the access to the pain meds back in the good old days when he says “Is that right? I don’t know.” Looking back, he knows it was not right. Unfortunately, hindsight does not change the past.

  24. Prove the doctors didn’t tell them. All these guys with brain injuries can’t remember. It’s a ploy for money

  25. Next up: Players suing the NFL for leg hair that was ripped out while taking off tape.

    “The trainer never told me how much it would hurt, he just kept wrapping and wrapping and wrapping!”

  26. I really like how Ditka gets right to the point, without worrying about carefully chosen words. Refreshing to listen to people who talk like this. Just good old fashion common frigging sense.

  27. I played football and I was unaware banging my head into a wall would give me a concussion, they also had drugs available for pain that no one forced me to take, but how was I to know drugs were addictive, even if I did attend a major university, you cannot expect me to have any common sense.

    21 7
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    evidently you did NOT learn at university that there is a lot of pressure to be out on the field playing.

    Coaches telling them that they “expect” to see them on the field next week.

    Players see others get demoted, lose playing time and even get cut.

    So yes, aplayer CAN choose NOT to take the pills and then the team CAN choose to sit him or even cut him because he’s not contributing to the team.

    your words make sense by themselves, easy to understand, a simple point you’re making…

    BUT it is NOT that simple in REAL life. MORE goes into it than just that.

    and I’m sure YOU realize that many of these university educated men are not all that bright in real life…

    they are young, healthy, in shape and have always and still feel invincible… one at 23 and 24 yrs old thinks they NEVER be 54 yrs old…

    heck, when I was in 4th grade, the 8th graders were OLD to me.

    when I was in high school, 30 yrs old was ANCIENT to me…

    In an ivory tower, straightforward common sense statements like yours may be said and discussed as they are all HYPOTHETICAL at that point.

    Out in the REAL world, REALITY meets LIFE head on… and it isn’t always so pretty, straight forward and common sense doesn’t always apply.

  28. Just another nail in the coffin. The players have the right to expect medical care without agendas. We are trying to rationalize our love of our Bloodsport by saying that they freely choose to play football. Just enjoy the game now, because a change is a comin.

  29. I Love the commercials that tell you to stop aking the medication and contact you doctor if you have thoughts of suicide. Yea… sign me up for that. Advertising prescription drugs on TV is just wrong.
    “Ask your doctor about______”?
    REALLY ?

  30. Remember when guys like Ditka were the rule in the NFL rather than the exception? Remember when players were allowed to have personality, when rivalries took place where players actually did and said things that might hurt an opponent’s feelings? My god, today’s PC police would have placed Dan Hampton and Jim McMahon under arrest well before the end of their first training camp.

    Ditka is right on this one. Football is a violent game, and there is a reason why the players are so well-compensated.

  31. If the players are going to the team doctor or trainer and asking for something to take care of pain they are in they should ask what it is. If they are too stupid to just take it without asking they only have themselves to blame.

  32. Ditka says it all. We are to feel for these players when they call foul after the fact. No one forces them to go play this game yet all that is said is they di no know anything. They know how to cash that check. What they don’t know is if all this info is out there then where is the players lining up to quit.

  33. What about all of the countries Vet’s, what are they getting for losing their lives, and limbs and everything that war offer’s?? These guys looking for the easy buck…

  34. Spoken like an attorney in 2014, instead of a football team in 1985. Put on your big-boy pants and take responsibility for yourself. Did the doctors tell the players the risk of playing with painkillers? A better question? Did any of the players ask the question? What a cop-out.

  35. Thanks Florio for reporting the story and letting us decide for ourselves what we think…modern “journalism” I guess.

  36. djstat says:
    May 24, 2014 4:52 PM
    Prove the doctors didn’t tell them. All these guys with brain injuries can’t remember. It’s a ploy for money.
    Spoken like someone who NEVER suited up. Anybody who ever played, knows that trainers/doctors don’t tell you anything. It’s more like, “here take this, you’ll feel better in a few minutes.”

    Maybe they would say the name, maybe not. But that’s it.

  37. These lawsuits are nothing more then men who already bled their checks dry, now are trying to get more money from the league that has paid them far more then most people will ever get in their life time, and that was only for a couple years of work.
    I remember taking these pills and playing in college, I knew what I was taking when I took them. So either these players are mentally incompetent, or just plain stupid, because everyone back then knew the issues with addiction that came with these pills. We also all knew that they masked the pain, but we did not care, just wanted to keep playing.

  38. The same attitude that leads people to prattle on about how the names of teams need to be changed to stop hurting someone’s feewings They aren’t), how we need to stop bullying in the NFL and other inane pc drivel is the same attitude that is going to kill this league as we knew it.

  39. It’s really not that difficult to comprehend. If you want to make millions and you get beat up to the point where you feel you can’t perform, you can take these pills or give up the millions. Do you really think any of them went home and asked their spouses, parents, significant others, etc. if they took all these pills and were shocked that they didn’t?

  40. For sportsfan18 and others crying about players losing their positions or getting cut by not taking the meds that’s a cop out. All actions have consequences it’s your responsibility to choose what you do. Hey if they are addictive and cause other health issues players could have spoken up and asked. He’ll they could have gotten outside opinions,or said no I do not want to put that in my body. If they didnt think it was worth it they could have easily looked for another line of work. Give me a break they had to they would have lost their job it’s called making tough choices people.

  41. Boo-hoo. Put that free college education to use and find another job that’s not so painful….. Oh,wait……

  42. We can’t assume that all players considered that the medications they were given would be addictive. They talk about how the team is a brotherhood and their faith in each other is total. The team doctor is part of that. The players trust the doctor to take care of them because they are a part of the team and they are professional physicians. We hear all the time that so and so got a shot before the game,they players even get on the mic and say it without even questioning it. I don’t know if they were prescribing doses, giving pills pre and post game at the facility or just leaving them on a shelf. We know that standards were lax around the country regarding prescription drugs until recently. No one thought twice about taking a pill from their wife’s bottle or their buddy handing them Tylenol-3 until a big deal was made out of it. Now if these guys were strolling in and grabbing a handful before going home,then that’s on them. It also wouldn’t shock me if they blew the guy off as he explained the problems that could arise from using it. I have a prescription now that just tells me how many to take a day. Not a word about addiction and I never asked. I’m just assuming that the quantity given is what I’ll need. I won’t blame the doc though,she probably assumed I wasn’t dumb and I wouldn’t get hooked on them,which I haven’t even though I feel good taking them. Once they’re done I’m done because I trust the doctor and the doctor trusts me.

  43. is this the same guy that ran an nonprofit charity for veteran NFL hurt players, that when it was looked into, he rang up hundred of thousands of dollars with golf events but gave out very little to help them. I lost all respect for him after that. Why the sports media didn’t blacklist him after that is terrible

  44. The country is full of punks today. Always looking for that Free Ride. Wanting to change the rules in everything to make everything easier. I laugh when I hear of all these records in the NFL being broken, ya right. And America wonders why it is a laughing stock around the World Today. It is because it is full of a bunch of wienie, i want a free ride and dumb as a stone punks.

  45. If anyone is not smart enough to realize that taking any type of “medication”, be it painkillers, Tylenol or even aspirin comes with risks…

    Then they are just too damn stupid to be playing football or doing anything.

    Come on…we live in a world nowadays that says you do not have to accept responsibility for anything you do – just point at the organization or people with big enough pockets and sue.

    THIS is what we are teaching our kids and its why they don’t accept blame for their own actions either. And its just going to get worse when the courts back up these people’s right to shift the blame.

  46. Shame on Mike because he knows (though he may not remember) the pressure to get back on the field and that the players NEVER REALLY HAD ANY CHOICE.

    It was always, you play or you jeopardize your position. That pressure is there at every level, but at it’s highest in the NFL.

    The NFL can’t wish this away. There’s not a player who ever played that didn’t feel like he had to take whatever the trainer gave him to play.

    Unlike concussions, this touches every player.


    Sorry, but we all have our own free will and you ALWAYS HAVE A CHOICE…you can stay or walk away.

    They CHOSE to stay for the $$, for the glory, for the love of playing football – their choice.

    Sometimes we make bad ones, but we are responsible to suffer the consequences of the choices we make.

    It’s called personal responsibility – look it up.

  47. I take docter perscribed Motrin 800 every day to get through my assembly job. I am on my feet for 8 hours walking, bending, lifting and twisting. Without the Motrin, I would not get through my shift and I would loose my job. I do what need to do to keep my job!!!!!

  48. You are taking the position that all doctors are involved in a conspiracy, & that there is no honor in medicine lol. Not sure if you understand the context

  49. We need a lot more Ditka’s in this country. We’ve become soft, victims, and irresponsible. Folks are always looking for someone else to blame, rather than themselves. Hike up your frilly pants and get on with life, already.

  50. Mike has it right. These guys are merely going along with some money grubbing lawyers promising them a pile of free money.

  51. my parents never made me wear seatbelts 30 years ago either…..

    cmon its football…everyone knows the effects of playing the game….and the medication that came with it.

    the issue is, as always, after they retire..the money fades

  52. Coach got his one right..its not like anybody was held down and force fed pain killers. Players would do anything to get get on the field. Pointing fingers now is wrong. What is required is medical help if those players need it.

  53. When my doctor prescribes a new pill for my blood pressure he does not volunteer side affects information unless I ask specifically what the possible side affects are.
    I assume (probably incorrectly) that he would not prescribe anything that he thought would have SERIOUS short or long term affects that I could sue him for in the future and have never asked.
    Good luck in court to the plaintiffs.

  54. It’s on the players for taking them…

    you gotta believe these teams make it part of their culture though. Which is wrong. Ditka didn’t hold back, he said it himself, they were readily available. That means a lot.

    NFL isn’t the only ones who have had an issue with this. It happens everywhere. In all sports, and pill culture is big in a lot of normal physical jobs too. It’s wrong that it’s promoted like it is. Pills are known to be highly addictive and harmful.

    Yet they are everywhere and highly accepted because the Dr sells them. I don’t know about you guys but I’ve known a few handful of people who’ve had their bouts with pills.

    Ditka is right in a way, but it is wrong for the NFL to enable it.

  55. Because something is an old school attitude doesn’t make it wrong.

    Sometimes life is just guided by simple principals, and Ditka’s principal on this matter is fairly common sense. These guys aren’t children, they were at the time educated adults; unless you completely live under a rock- you know what pain killers are, what’s their purpose, how they affect you, and yes, a long term consequence if you take them too much is addiction.

    So what is the “new-school” attitude now, Florio? That refuse to take self-accountability? When you find yourself in a negative situation, find someone else to blame whenever and wherever possible, therefore to profit and make money off of it?

    Let’s get real here, these guys knew damn well what they were taking. These guys didn’t have a gun to their head. They weren’t deceived by being told that this is Starburst candy. They were adults, with the FREE decision of- to do or not do?

  56. What did they think, a drug that a dr. Has to administer does not have any side effects or is not addictive? There’s a reason you cant buy this stuff on the shelf.

    I wonder how many players asked about the side effects. You would think these guys making a living off of their bodies would be more aware of what they are putting into it.

  57. Next the 350lb plus linemen are going to sue because the NFL didn’t tell them that being that heavy is bad for you heart, back, knees etc…

  58. I doubt anyone was handed pills in the open hand-to-hand. There were likely amber colored plastic prescription bottles with warning labels all over it. Nobody reads them because nobody cares. But now that they have there hands sticking out, now they care. These guys had visions of fame and fortune and nothing would stop them….except themselves. Occupational hazards are endured by all of us. Sales positions can be high-stress and very bad for the heart. Who do I go see about that?

  59. Apparently there are a couple of punters who signed onto the lawsuit.
    I would comment on this, but I’m laughing too hard to finish.
    Really? You had to take painkillers because your hammy hurt from stretching? Or did your hands hurt from that mean-old-center snapping the ball so hard? (sniffle).

  60. The bottom line is that we are all responsible for our health care, we blame the doctor because we ate ourselves fat, because we didn’t follow instruction on our script, or we drink to much alcohol, and we blame the cop for pulling us over for doing 99, why? because everyone else were doing 99 miles per hour, not my fault. Theses players are like 99% of the people in prisons, I’m innocent, I didn’t do it, look in the mirror, there is you answer to you problems. Bill

  61. I find it very hard to have any sympathy for people making $17 million a year. They make enough money to go to any Dr. they choose – they don’t HAVE to listen to the team Dr. only. If there’s a problem, or you think there’s a problem, go to your own Dr. & check it out. Spend a little of your own money taking care of yourself.

  62. He’s right…bunch of losers trying to bring down the game that made them famous.

    The NFL will die soon enough. Book it.

  63. I say if someone sues…delete them from he history of the game.

    Like they never even played, at all.

  64. Of course, if you don’t take the painkillers, you can’t play hurt, then coaches like Mike Ditka call you a bunch of names, imply you’re not a man, then cut you.

    Yeah, lotta choice there.

    Lotta commenters I bet never set foot on a football field bleating about “toughness” and being “old school”, too. No respect for the players who give you the game you love.

  65. Are these the same players that do coke, HGH, steroids, etc.? Maybe they should sue themselves while they’re at it.

  66. Hey Chicago fans, how does it feel to get smoked by the Lions every year? Prepare for another sweep!!

  67. For all the many who talk about the getting “paid” part of professional football I wonder if they realize many of the players involved worked for 25k and plenty of those NFL careers ended their productive work lives. So while I like old school, I’m OK with filing for damages as well

  68. Seems like the North Dallas Forty attitude is alive and well today, still in Coach Ditka.

    Ditka was as tough as they come, so were his players from those Bears teams.

    But Ditka’s attitude on the subject is a bit convenient.

    This is why Goodell is trying to clean up this sport.

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