Toradol, a strong non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, has spurred controversy in recent months due to its severe side effects.
College and pro athletes say it has gotten them through their injuries and allowed them back on the field faster, but some of them have suffered from heart attacks, kidney failure and other severe side effects due to this drug.
Dr. Joe Congeni, director of sports medicine at Akron Children’s Hospital, discusses the use and possible abuse of the powerful, legal anti-inflammatory drug used by athletes as a game-day pain reliever.
[Originally aired on 1590 WAKR-AM on January 30, 2013. Transcript and audio below.]
Horner: I’d like to bring in my good friend, Dr. Joe Congeni from Sports Medicine Center at Akron Children’s Hospital. I saw him last night and I had a chance to talk to him a little bit. Joe, didn’t Omar put on a nice show last night?
Dr. Congeni: He did. Didn’t you feel like you were back in the ’90s for a few minutes? That was fantastic.
Horner: Oh yeah, very charismatic. It’s no mistake, Joe, why the fans still frolic to see him.
Dr. Congeni: No doubt about it. He’s the guy who makes it feel like it’s a game again. He has the smile, he loves game — not the business aspect of it, it’s just the pure love of it. It was a blast.
Horner: What do you have for us today?
Dr. Congeni: The wonder drug — and the great debate in the last couple of months — of sports medicine in the last decade has really become a medicine known as Toradol. Toradol has been used in professional sports and a lot in college sports. It’s kind of become the go-to pain medicine. Toradol is a strong non-steroidal anti-inflammatory. So, it’s one of the cousins to Motrin, Aleve and Naproxen, but it’s much stronger when it comes to pain. It’s useful in injections. The big benefit of Toradol, this stronger pain medicine, is it has a real rapid onset, it works right away. It clears the system very fast — three to five hours. So, it’s perfect for a game or practice.
It’s used in emergency rooms a lot when people are in really tremendous pain to break that pain cycle right away. So, people said “Hey, if it’s useful in emergency rooms, let’s start using it in locker rooms before games and things for pain.”
It obviously took over in the last decade for narcotics. Narcotics you get addictions and you have central nervous system side effects of drowsiness, so it’s [replaced] narcotics. It’s kind of replaced steroid injections, too. Steroid injections we learned, of course, in the ’80s and ’90s cause weakness in muscles and tendons, and can lead to arthritis. So, the hot drug was Toradol.
Now, the problem is it also has a pretty high side-effect profile. GI (Gastrointestinal) bleeding is the No. 1 thing you’ll see with it. You’ll also see kidney toxicity, so people have kidney failure sometimes. You’ll even see heart attacks and stroke risks go up, along with brain bleeds. So, that’s pretty bad stuff, but really overall those side effects are pretty low.
The problem is it wasn’t meant to be used every week. What it’s become in sports at the highest levels is what they call kind of the lineup parade. Twenty or 30 people line up before a game and get these shots in professional locker rooms and college locker rooms. In baseball, this year R.A. Dickey was saying he got through as a pitcher for the (New York) Mets on his Toradol injections he was getting every week. You know, (NFL linebacker) Brian Urlacher on HBO said last night, it’s like a flu shot, you line up, you get a quick shot and you put the Band-Aid on. They were saying it’s like a wonder drug, for three hours “you feel like Superman,” is kind of what they were saying. And so this drug was great.
Now, the problem is we had a kid at USC (University of Southern California) that had a heart attack. There’s a big lawsuit [filed by] the (former defensive lineman) Armond Armstead. He kept getting Toradol injections and he actually had a heart attack. (Former NFL lineman) Jeremy Newberry had kidney failure because of the use of Toradol. So now, a lot of colleges back and forth in the College Bowl series are saying we’re not using it or we’re using it occasionally. And in the NFL, they make everybody sign a waiver that says, I’m using it, but I’m not going to hold anybody liable for the side effects.
So I just wonder at times, Ray, is it like the gladiators again? We’re doing things that we know could be harmful, but we’re doing them so people can continue to play sports. And that makes me a little bit concerned. That’s part of the issues about this big controversy of the drug known as Toradol.
Horner: Alright, good stuff, Joe. As always, thank you for the time, my friend. We’ll catch up with you next week.