Educating Athletes About Addiction

Educating Athletes About Addiction

Sometimes it’s important to take a step back and look at basic fundamentals when evaluating America’s opioid crisis. What is the ultimate purpose of these prescriptions? To relieve pain. And what is a field where pain is most common? Sports. Believe it or not many people fail to make that simple connection, which means athletes (including students, amateurs and professionals) often lack basic knowledge when it comes to treating their injuries and understanding the dangers of these pills.


ABC News recently published a telling article about this issue, providing factoids and interviews with sports professionals who have dealt with opioid addiction. Though we might not realize it, this profession is getting hit hard by the crisis and deserves to be part of the ongoing conversation.


Football, not surprisingly, is one of the areas where these dependencies most commonly develop. Just watching last week’s Super Bowl, it’s easy to see what kinds of bone crunching can occur between quarters and how quick relief (often in pill form) is needed to get players back on the field. The ABC piece focused on the suffering that occurs among amateurs too, particularly local Oklahoma resident Austin Box.


Box’s family was profiled in the article, describing the agonizing addiction the young lineman faced and how it eventually took his life. It also delved into the parents’ point of view and how both his mom and dad were unable to see the warning signs of his dependency.


“There is no question he hid it from us, but we had no idea until he died,”  Austin’s father told the site. “My wife and I have felt extreme guilt because we missed something or we didn’t do something we could have done or picked up on any kind of nuance. I know he had prescriptions when he had his back [injury], but not the full extent until after he passed away.”



Like many opioid addicts, Austin succumbed to an overdose. University of Tulsa’s team physician, Dr. Brad Boone, also spoke with ABC, sharing some of the traits that Austin and many like him often exhibit.


“The thing about the kids or anybody that is addicted to narcotics, pain medication they actually function pretty normally so you can’t look at them and determine if they are impaired,” he explained. “The stigma of addiction needs to go away so families and our patients are able to seek help when they’re addicted without feeling socially demoralized.”


Dr. Boone added that now, opioids are rarely prescribed to University of Tulsa athletes. And in the rare circumstances where they are needed, the pills are never kept on campus and are given out in small dosages at a maximum of seven days.


Though Austin is now gone, his father Craig continues his mission to educate athletes about the dangers of addiction. In fact, he has started a successful foundation in his son’s honor and continues to do press tours across the U.S.


You can see the full ABC report by clicking below…


Valley Recovery Blog