FDA officials spent the weekend in NFL locker rooms investigating several teams over the abuse of painkillers in the league. In May,1,200 NFL players filed a lawsuit depicting a disturbing cycle of narcotic cocktails being handed out like candy before and after games to encourage play.
The players complained that these medicines are handed to them without any discussion of side effects or risks of addiction.
Yesterday, I had the chance to speak with WAKR morning show host Ray Horner about this topic. Though this weekend’s investigation was strictly compliance-based, the real issue will come into play about the medical decisions being made by the team’s personnel.
Below is an audio file and transcript of our discussion. Originally aired on 1590 WAKR-AM on Nov. 19, 2014.
DR. CONGENI: Hey, Ray. How are ya?
HORNER: I’m doing well today. What do you have for us?
DR. CONGENI: You know, a lot of people are trying to figure out what was the issue with the, uh, Federal Drug Administration, the FDA, being in several NFL locker rooms and checking out several teams this weekend. So, I wanted to just kinda weigh in on that.
You know, it was a lead-in from last week. You and I talk about some of these injuries that are, you know, very painful and people play with them. We talked last week about the spinal injury to Tony Romo and others.
But, in May, there was a lawsuit filed by 1,200 players in the NFL about this cycle of the use and overuse and abuse of painkillers in the NFL to get people to be able to play.
Many times I try to link these topics to what goes on at the youth levels and the high-school levels, and really, hopefully there’s not much use, you know, at those levels. This is pretty much, I hope, an NFL thing. We do see it at major colleges to some extent.
But, there are descriptions by many of these players in the lawsuit of a kind of a cycle that goes on [about the] use of these painkillers.
These athletes will use fast-acting injection painkillers before games to be able to play, and then after the game they’ll use cocktails of multiple different strong narcotics, like Vicodin, Percocet, Oxycontin, Toradol, after a game to be able to put up with the pain and to try to bounce back and be able to play and continue on in the sport. And so that’s concerning.
They describe it kinda being handed out like candy by trainers or other personnel of the team. … Most of the lawsuit was before 2012, but now several other people have joined the lawsuit and say, yes, some of this is still going on today.
So, the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), I want to make it clear, the DEA … was just looking at compliance issues.
DR. CONGENI: So what I mean by that is they were just going to see were the doctors licensed in the states they were in; was there proper use of the medicines they were bringing in, in the way of painkillers; were these medicines being dispensed by non-licensed personnel, like trainers?
So, it was a compliance issue. They really weren’t looking at medical decision making, and the deeper point is going to be the medical decision making, Ray.
A lot of these players say these medicines are given to them, multiple different medicines at once. There’s no discussion of what meds they are. No discussion of what the side effects [are]; and no discussion of the long-term effects of addiction.
The biggest problem is many of these players leave the league with strong addictions and withdrawal symptoms from trying to get off the narcotics they use to play.
So that’s really the deepest issue here. Is it right for these people to need to be taking significant strong pain medicines and narcotics to be able to play the game, Ray?
HORNER: Yeah. You look at that big picture, as Joe just mentioned, what about the after effect of taking all these drugs and painkillers.
Joe, good stuff. We’ll catch up with you next week.
DR. CONGENI: Okay, Ray. Have a great week.
HORNER: You too. Dr. Joe Congeni, Sports Center at Akron Children’s Hospital, with us.