Medicine Abuse Very Common Among Former NFL Players
Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner chose Dr. H. Hunt Batjer, the chairman of neurological surgery at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Evanston, Illinois, and Dr. Richard G. Ellenbogen, the chief of neurological surgery at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, to be the leaders of the head, neck and spine medical committee for the league. Dr. Elliot Pellman was the chairman of the committee up until 2007 when he was forced to resign from the position. Pellman was the one who got to treat lots of concussions and injuries sustained by the players, and according to numerous experts from the domain he did a very poor job. After him, the lead for the committee was taken over by Dr. Ira Casson and Dr. David Viano, but they were forced to resign as well, for the same reasons as Dr. Pellman. Casson stated for a very long period of time that there aren’t any connections between the numerous cases of dementia among the former NFL players and their activity on the field. He stated that the illness did not occur because of the damages they sustained on the field, but the majority of the experts believed something else. Greg Aiello, the spokesman of the league said that the two doctors would be able to change the committee as they want a decision which faced lots of criticisms.
There are many doctors who believe that the NFL is not interested in the players, but in making money and that is the reason why some of the doctors who work for the league are willing to hide the truth. Prior to that point, the committee strictly analyzed the injuries sustained to the head, but they changed their policy, and they decided to investigate the neck and the spine as well. Many brain damages are caused because of the injuries sustained to the spine and to the neck. Aiello said that the other doctors should not be worried, as the doctors from the committee are not paid to lie. They are simply paid to do their job, and this is what they do. However, the majority of the doctors who cooperate with the league have stated that the change was necessary, and that it was the only way in which things could have evolve. Football is a very physical sport, and there have been various cases when former players have developed various brain conditions, from Parkinson’s disease, to Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and so on. The league has made lots of chances over the course of time, and prior to the beginning of this current season which will end next week, they have made the hard hits and the helmet hits to be illegal. The ones who performed them were fined for it, and they had to pay a large amount of money each time. Goodell considered the decision to be excellent for the players, but that draw criticism from many players from the league, especially from the defensive side.
The majority of them were afraid that because of the new changes, their game would be affected, as they would have to concentrate on making less physical hits, and so on. A new research conducted on the players last month, revealed the fact that the majority of them use and abuse various medications, especially pain killers. The researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine have stated that these players usually suffer lots of damage on the field and that the damage remains with them for the rest of their lives. The players feel the pain even after they retire, and the pain is chronic. They need to manage it somehow, and they take medicines in order to take care of it. 644 former players who retired from football between 1979 and 2006 participated to the study. The researchers asked them various things about their health, such as their health condition, if they took medicine, if they have pains, if they have injuries, and so on. It was discovered that 7 percent of these former NFL players took painkilling opioid drugs in order to take care of the problem. The opioid drugs are the most powerful type of painkillers, and they are only prescribed in rare and extreme cases. These drugs which include morphine, Vicodin, codeine and oxycodone, are very effective and they are used when the other medicines are no longer able to take care of the problem. However because they are so strong, they are addictive as well. Linda B. Cottler, Ph.D., who is a professor of epidemiology in psychiatry at the St. Louis-based Washington University, and the leader of the study, said that she also asked them if they took painkillers while they were active, and if they followed the recommendations of the doctors when they took them.
Just as she suspected, the majority of them took opioid drugs when they were active as well. She was shocked when she heard that almost 75 percent of them did not took the drugs in the manner in which the doctors told them, and that they abused them. Many of them have stated that they often took drugs which were prescribed for other people in order to take care of the pain. They did not care about the consequences; all they wanted to do was to get rid of the pain as fast as possible. She stated that many players, who misused the drugs while they were playing, misused them while they retired as well. 15 percent of those who misused them while they were playing misused them once they retired, and only 5 percent of those who used them in the proper manner while they were playing misused them once they retired. Cottler said that she could not find out if these players are addicted to the medicines, but it was very obvious to her that these players took them because they were in pain. She said that she was surprised by the fact that so many of these players still had pain, which was very severe. 75 percent of them stated that the pain is unbearable. They also stated that their daily activities were affected by the pain, and that they could not perform their daily activities in the proper manner because of it. 70 percent of them stated that the pain they felt was moderate, and that their lives were affected a little bit by the pain. She said that the pain was the reason why these people took the drugs. She also believes that another reason why they took them was because they had concussions which were not diagnosed by the doctors.
All the players who participated to the survey had at least 9 concussions. 50 percent of them stated that at least one of their concussions was diagnosed while they were active. The majority of them believed that they had concussions which were not diagnosed while they were active. There were some who believed that they might have had more than 100 concussions while they were active. Simone M. Cummings, Ph.D., a senior scientist in psychiatry, who talked to some of these players, said that the majority of them did not want to talk with their doctors about their concussions, because they were afraid that they will be benched because of it. The competition is very fierce in the NFL, and spending a game on the bench might keep you there for a very long time. There is always a player who wants to take your spot. Because of this, there are many players who hide their injuries in order to get to play. However, since they felt pain, they would take medications in order to manage it. Since they did not receive instructions from their doctors regarding the way in which they had to take the medications, they would take it whenever they felt the pain. There were many players who borrowed these pills from their friends, family members, teammates, and so on. 63 percent of them have stated that they received the medications from people who were not working in the medical domain. The other 37 percent stated that they took the medications strictly from the doctors, but that on various occasions they did not took the medicine as the doctor told them to. Cottler also revealed the fact that many of these former players who abuse the medications, drink a lot as well.
She stated that because of this problem, these people were in the high risk of overdosing, which could lead to their deaths. The study was paid by ESPN, the sports network. There was some shocking news which the network found out about the players in various interviews. There was a player who took 100 pills each day, another one who took 1,000 Vicodin pills each month, and so on. This practice is very common among the players, and they are all familiar about the way in which the pills are taken in the league. There are many players who take them before the game, right after the game, and so on. The players who took many of these pills were the ones from the offensive line. These players spend the majority of the game in a certain position which puts a lot of strain on their knees and on their lower back. They are overweight as well, and because of that they have heart problems. They represent the biggest risk, as they have the highest chances of suffering from the medicine abuse. Cottler said that 47 percent of the retired NFL players have had a very serious injury, and that it is very likely that the injury will cause them pain later in life. 55 percent of the former NFL players have ended their careers because of the injuries, so you can imagine just how tough this sport is. These players are professional athletes and that means that they are in excellent shape. However, their shape and health deteriorates by the time they reach a certain age. When they can no longer handle the situation, they take the pills.11