Painkillers in the NFL

Logan Pearce, Editorials Assistant Editor

In a series of recent interviews conducted by Vice Sports, former National Football League players opened up about the abuse of prescription painkillers during their careers. Kyle Turley, Nate Jackson, Marcellus Wiley and Keith McCants provide emotional testimonies about the drastic measures players are pressured to take in order to play through the pain associated with a rigorous NFL season. These testimonies shows the atrocities committed by the NFL against its employees.

“Are you hurt or are you injured?” said Jackson, former Denver Broncos tight end, “That’s a question we would get all the time. Are you hurt or are you injured? And really what that means is are you a p***y or are you tough? Can you take it or not?”

Jackson started for the first time in his career during the 2007 season. That year, in a game against the Cleveland Browns, he was hit awkwardly in the neck and was given a small amount of pain pills to help him deal with the injury. Jackson was disheartened at the number of pills he received and was forced to take pills that had been leftover from previous injuries. A few weeks later, Jackson’s career ended when he tore his hamstring off of the bone.

Jackson spent six seasons with the Broncos and described his use of prescription painkillers as a way to endure the long season and continue performing well on the field. This attitude of enduring pain and playing through serious injuries should not be present in the NFL. These kinds of attitudes lead to the destruction of players’ lives through structural damage, back injuries, mental health issues and concussions.

According to Jackson, if players are suffering from substance abuse, they are not covered under the NFL concussion settlement. And with these addictions often stemming from their careers in the NFL, players are being punished for actions their former employers have pushed them towards.

Marcellus Wiley, former NFL defensive end, played for multiple teams during his ten year career. During Wiley’s time with the Buffalo Bills, he remembered seeing red spots on his teammates white pants. He was told the players were being injected with Toradol, a strong anti-inflammatory drug meant to treat acute pain over a short period of time. Long term use of Toradol can lead to gastrointestinal bleeding, internal bleeding and an increased risk of fatal cardiovascular complications. Doctors who players trust to keep them in good health are supplying players with drugs that are known to cause serious health issues in order to deal with pain.

“I remember how that felt to me and the pain I felt and how bad this injury was in my mind, in my eyes. I can’t go out there and do what I want to do. I can’t make an impression this way. But then on the flip side, the contrast was how no one gave a d**n,” Wiley said, in reference to his case of plantar fasciitis during his rookie season.

Keith McCants, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end, gave an accusing testimony full of tears. McCants was consuming over 183 pills a week during his NFL career. After leaving the NFL and losing his support system, he hit the streets to fulfill his drug addiction. McCants has been convicted on three charges of drug possession and possession of drug paraphernalia. His use of recreational drugs was not for the enjoyment but to avoid the chronic pain from his years in the NFL. McCants, 47, suffers from glaucoma, dementia, split personality disorder with violent tendencies and many other physical ailments, including a deteriorating tricep and knee injury.

“They turn you into a f***ing monster on the field, and you take that monster home with you,” McCants said. “You hurt the people around you that love you, and you don’t know why you do it, and they don’t help you. They don’t give you an answer. I think [they’re] the biggest lawbreakers in the world, and they get away with it.”