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Over the last two weeks I have talked to 10 former NFL players and 8 current players about the use of opioids and marijuana in the NFL. All of these players have asked for anonymity because they work or worked for the NFL. Why would I care about this? Over the last 3 three years we here at The Grueling Truth have interviewed many former NFL players (that number would be well over 100) and the problems that have been caused by head trauma and the abuse of prescription drugs has been disturbing. As you know, in many states marijuana is legal, at least in medicinal form. So the first thing you might ask yourself would be why would the NFL rather have their players use something like Vicodin, that is proven to destroy your body, instead of marijuana, which is a proven safe pain reliever?

Can an NFL player trust his team doctor?

Unfortunately they can’t, but they have to do what team physicians tell them to do. The nature of an NFL player contract, which is usually not guaranteed, makes it almost impossible for a player to not listen to doctors. Let’s face it, if a player doesn’t play whether he is injured or not, he can easily be replaced.

The NFL was sued recently by 1,800 players and the court findings were disturbing, to say the least. The material from the NFL’s own doctors and trainers, submitted by lawyers for 1,800 players suing the league, reveal that the problem is in fact persistent. The most eye-opening documents describe multiple instances in which team and league officials were made aware of abuses, record-keeping problems, and even violations of federal law, and were either slow in responding or failed to comply. This can’t be surprising when you look at the NFL’s constant denial for years about the CTE issues the league had. It is very simple, player safety is not important to the league and players are handled more like property that the NFL owns than anything else.

The real problem is that the players have the least power in all of this and are basically at the whims of the owners.

Retired players using at a rate four times higher than general population

Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis had a study published online in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence. It included 644 former NFL players who retired from the NFL between 1979 and 2006. Researchers asked them about their overall health, level of pain, history of injuries, concussions and use of prescription pain pills.

The study found that 7 percent of the former players were currently using painkilling opioid drugs. That’s more than four times the rate of opioid use in the general population. Opioids are commonly prescribed for their analgesic, or pain-relieving, properties. Medications that fall within this class of drugs include morphine, Vicodin, codeine and oxycodone.

So when players are done playing they have a high rate of continued use, but as we all know, the NFL does not care for players after they stop playing because they are no longer able to help owners make money.

Should marijuana be legal for NFL players to use?

If it helps them why not? Alcohol is legal and has a more detrimental affect on people, sometimes causing death and destruction. If you don’t believe me, look at theses numbers. I am not saying it is right to use marijuana but I am saying it is much safer than pain killers and alcohol. I have heard of NFL players driving drunk and killing innocent people, but I have never heard about a player high on marijuana killing an innocent person in a wreck. What’s really scary is the NFL allowed Stallworth to play in the NFL again after a one-year suspension and, to make matters worse, he only spent 30 days in jail for killing someone.

My biggest question is why if marijuana can help with pain management and opioids destroy the human body, why would the NFL rather have players destroy their bodies? Remember it has been proven in legitimate studies to help many medical problems. I was told by a current player that he believes up to 60 percent of players on his team use marijuana for pain relief and every player that I talked to has used it for pain relief or knows a player that has. Every current and former player I talked to thinks that marijuana should be legal for players to use for pain relief and other medical conditions, and the majority of players do not trust the medical advice that their team doctors give them.

The case of Kenny Easley

Kenny Easley was a five-time Pro Bowl safety for the Seattle Seahawks, and was once voted NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and was recently inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Easley’s career was shortened by the use of Advil. Easley retired as a result of kidney failure that he claimed in a lawsuit began with taking four tablets of Advil to help reduce swelling in an injured ankle. He said he subsequently took from 16 to 20 tablets of Advil daily for at least three months before a doctor told him to stop. Now I don’t know if doctors told Kenny it was okay to take that many or not. But Advil, Ibuprofen, aspirin etc. are known to cause damage to your body when you use them. 

Conclusion

As I have always written, the NFL doesn’t care about the health, safety or well-being of their players, they just care about the bottom line. It’s messed up that the NFL is okay with alcohol (if you don’t believe they are okay with it, watch the commercials during a game) and they are alright with players taking opioids, but they draw the line at marijuana. To all of those people out there that will say, ‘but in most states it’s illegal,’ I say to you that there is no reason it should be illegal but there are many reasons why opioids and alcohol should be illegal. Players risk their lives playing this game and I do not understand why we want them to risk their lives anymore with the medical treatment that they are receiving. It’s time to wake up and make sure players are doing as little damage to their bodies as possible. The NFL owes that to them.

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