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American football player with injury visiting doctor

Athletes And Painkiller Abuse

Whether you’re a professional, in college or actively involved in community teams; being an athlete can take a tremendous physical toll on the body. And understandably, when injuries occur, players of all sports tend to seek out painkillers to help deal with the stress. But in league like the NFL, for example, that has led to an increase in addictions and opioid prescriptions, all of which were touched upon in a new article on


Zeroing in on current players and retirees, the piece focused on how easy it has been for pro football stars to get their hands on powerful opioids. OxyContin was called out, for example, as a med that team doctors handed out without much discretion.


Earl Campbell, a former All-Pro running back in the NFL, said the first painkillers he took came in a small brown packet that a trainer gave him on the team plane,” the article pointed out. “Others talked about bowls of over-the-counter painkillers in locker rooms and taking a ‘handful’ of Percocet.”


As far as NFL retirees are concerned, former offensive tackler Aaron Gibson admitted to consuming up to 200 pain pills every day for years after he left the league. He claimed that his dangerous position left him with multiple long-term injuries, which (thanks to painkiller prescriptions) led him down the slippery slope towards addiction.


In fact, The Fix pointed to research that showed 7 percent of all retired football players were misusing painkillers. And 71 percent of the NFL athletes surveyed admitted to having a substance abuse problem at some point during their career.


With increased attention and the continued devastation that America’s opioid crisis is causing, the league has made a statement about the issue. In their current state, they claim to be much more cautious with the way painkillers are distributed among the players. Commissioner Roger Goodell even brought up the topic during a pre-Super Bowl press conference earlier this month, calling opioid abuse a “huge priority” for the organization. He also added that NFL leadership is now consulting with pain management experts.


As you can imagine, issues like these have also led to lawsuits and calls to change the way the game is played. There is no doubt that football easily lends itself to injuries and the need for pain treatment. Hopefully healthier and safer solutions will continue to be put in place for those willing to devote their lives to the sport.