As former pro football players enter into a lawsuit against all 32 NFL teams alleging violation of drug laws, Novus Medical Detox Center advocates for improved safety standards and drug prescribing practices to protect athletes’ long-term health.
(NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla.) April 3, 2017 – The Washington Post recently revealed more than 1,800 former professional football players have filed a federal lawsuit against all 32 National Football League (NFL) clubs, claiming long-term health damage due to “improper and deceptive drug distribution practices by NFL teams.”(1) Novus Medical Detox Center, a leading Florida-based drug treatment facility, says the case underscores serious ethical conflicts in sports medicine and calls for new safety and prescribing guidelines to preserve athletes’ health.
According to the court filings, the average NFL team prescribed nearly 5,777 doses of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and 2,213 doses of controlled medications during the 2012 calendar year. One trainer testified that doctors gave players injections of prescription drugs “without telling them what the drug was they were receiving or its side effects.” Every physician deposed admitted to violating one or more federal drug laws/regulations, and lawyers assert that the clubs’ doctors and trainers “concealed their illegal activities for years.”(1)
Among the medications of concern are Toradol, an injectable NSAID that deadens feeling and inhibits the ability to sense pain, and opioids such as Vicodin, which also mask pain but are highly addictive.(1) Athletes who use Toradol while playing may unknowingly cause further damage, and the drug is associated with renal toxicity and concussion risk.(2) Prescription opioids not only have the potential to increase and prolong pain,(3) but they can lead to substance use disorders. One study found that 52% of retired NFL players used opioids during their football career, and 71% of them admitted to misusing the drugs. The researchers also noted that 7% of all retired NFL players continue to misuse opioids, and those who used opioids during their careers reported worse current health than those who did not.(4)
“Professional athletes are at risk for serious long-term health issues; and as this court case shows, the continuing ethical conflicts and lack of standards can have devastating consequences for players’ future wellbeing,” warned Bryn Wesch, CFO of Novus Medical Detox Center. “Without clear guidelines or league-supported best practices in place, these athletes must endure enormous pressure and difficult decisions—do they protect their health at the risk of their career, or do they prioritize the team’s short-term success over their long-term health and safety?”
Wesch acknowledges that team physicians face a difficult dilemma, having to balance their employers’ concern for “team health” and success against the health and wellbeing of individual athletes.(2) Without set standards, team physicians must rely on their own clinical judgment but are also subject to the influence of their employers’ demands. Citing
the positive strides the NFL’s concussion protocol has contributed to players’ health and safety,(5) Wesch believes professional sports leagues should define and implement new standards that address drug prescribing and administration practices as well as players’ rights concerning long-term health consequences.
“While sports organizations have an interest in protecting their investment, they also have a moral obligation not to compromise players’ health or safety,” stated Wesch. “As a provider of medically supervised detox programs, Novus has seen firsthand how irresponsible prescribing practices can adversely impact patients’ health and lead to substance use disorders that put their very lives at risk. Athletes should be allowed to heal properly from their injuries rather than having drugs pushed on them so they can play through their pain. We will continue to advocate for sports-medicine guidelines that: prioritize players’ welfare; mandate responsible drug-prescribing practices; address potential substance use disorders; and ensure access to drug treatment programs.”
For more information on Novus Medical Detox Center and its prescription drug treatment programs, visit https://novusdetox.com.
About Novus Medical Detox Center:
Novus Medical Detox Center has earned The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval for Behavioral Health Care Accreditation as an inpatient medical detox facility. Licensed by the Florida Department of Children and Families, Novus provides safe, effective alcohol and drug treatment programs that are based on proven medical protocols and designed to minimize the discomfort of withdrawal. The facility is located on 3.25 acres in New Port Richey, Florida, in a tranquil, spa-like setting bordering protected conservation land. Intent on proving that detox doesn’t have to be painful or degrading, Novus set out to transform the industry by bringing humanity into medical detox with individually customized treatment programs and 24/7 access to nursing care and withdrawal specialists. Today, Novus is renowned as a champion of industry standardization and a staunch advocate of patients fighting to overcome substance use disorders. Frequently recognized for its contributions to the industry and local community, Novus has become a regular source to media publications such as The Wall Street Journal and USA Today, and has ranked in the Tampa Bay Business Journal’s Fast 50, the Florida Business Journal’s Top 500 and the Inc. 5000 list of America’s fastest-growing companies. For more information on Novus’ medically supervised detox programs, visit https://novusdetox.com.
1. Maese, Rick. “NFL Abuse of Painkillers and Other Drugs Described in Court Filings”; The Washington Post; March 9, 2017. washingtonpost.com/sports/redskins/nfl-abuse-of-painkillers-and-other-drugs-described-in-court-filings/2017/03/09/be1a71d8-035a-11e7-ad5b-d22680e18d10_story.html
2. Testoni, Daniela; Christoph P. Hornik; et al. “Sports Medicine and Ethics”; American Journal of Bioethics; January 23, 2014. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3899648/
3. Grace, Peter M.; Keith A. Strand; et al. “Morphine Paradoxically Prolongs Neuropathic Pain in Rats by Amplifying Spinal NLRP3 Inflammasome Activation”; Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences; June 14, 2016. pnas.org/content/113/24/E3441.abstract
4. Cottler, Linda B.; Arbi Ben Abdallah; et al. “Injury, Pain, and Prescription Opioid Use Among Former National Football League (NFL) Players”; Drug and Alcohol Dependence; July 1, 2011. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3095672/
5. Stites, Adam. “How Does the NFL’s Concussion Protocol Work?”; SB Nation; January 8, 2017. sbnation.com/nfl/2016/9/18/12940926/nfl-concussion-protocol-explained
Karla Jo Helms
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