The NFL Painkiller Lawsuit

By on May 23, 2014

Five hundred former NFL players – including Jim McMahon (below left) and Richard Dent (below right), both members of the 1985 Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears – are suing the league for long-term repercussions of taking the painkillers that allowed them to play through injuries.  According to the suit, the players alledge:

  1. The NFL illegally and unethically supplied serious pain medications, including addictive opioids, and NSAIDs such as torodol.
  2. The NFL did so for money, to keep them in competition rather than allowing them to rest and heal.
  3. The NFL fraudulently concealed the dangerous side effects of the drugs.
  4. The painkillers led to dangerous medical conditions, including addiction, stage 3 renal failure and high blood pressure.

McMahon SI coverI thought it was absurd that the NFL lost the classic action suit by ex-players last year suing them for concussions in a sport that’s defined by nonstop high-impact contact, even in practices.  Now this.  These suits are the equivalent of all cashiers suing all retail stores for the carpal tunnel syndrome they suffer from after all the repetitive movement of their forearms and wrists thirty years ago.   Or anyone that is required to stand a lot during their workday doing the same.  Here’s an excerpt from a page on the Hazards Magazine website on the topic of health problems resulting from jobs that require a lot of standing:

• Individuals spending most of the day on their feet every working day are at greater risk of health problems including varicose veins, poor circulation and swelling in the feet and legs, foot problems, joint damage, heart and circulatory problems and pregnancy difficulties. Richard Dent

Those are pretty serious repercussions for work conditions that are not at all uncommon.  The difference between these ex-NFL babies and the rest of us is we aren’t paid absurdly massive amounts of money and we are responsible for our own health.  These are players who got paid more than enough in one year for an average person to retire on.  You don’t need to be a college graduate – which I thought most NFL players were – to know subjecting your body to intense battering and taking strong pain medication for years will result in long-term effects.  The players knew what they were getting into.  Did they wonder why they received college scholarships, were paid so well, received so much public adulation, and given all the perks accorded to our sports stars?  To claim ignorance about the fact they received painkillers thirty years ago is just insulting to the rest of us.  Even us spectators know the players we are rooting for are on the field because of shots and pills.  When I first was made aware of the use of painkillers in pro sports, I thought it was a questionable practice but just figured it was part of being in pro sports.  Being a professional athlete doesn’t preclude someone from being responsible and accountable for what’s put in their bodies.  The players could easily have gone to their own doctors while they played and during the off season and/or complained/objected to their coaches or team management about the questionable use of painkillers.  No one told them to not look out for their own health.  It’s not the NFL’s fault these guys didn’t save or invest their huge salaries when they had the chance, which is how this lawsuit comes across.  Look at item #3 of the lawsuit:

3. The NFL “fraudulently concealed” the dangerous side effects of the drugs from players.

prescription pain killersYou’d have to be really stupid to not know the painkillers players are given are bad for you, have side effects, and can be addictive, even if taking them is the norm.  Think about how many people DIDN’T play football for the exact reasons the ex-NFL players are suing the league for now?  These guys filing the lawsuit need to grow up and be accountable for their own carelessness.  Turning a blind eye while it was happening is no excuse.

It’s ironic and disappointing to find out these tough guy “gladiators” we all grew up admiring and worshipping ultimately now see whiny, complaining, and irresponsible. They can complain all they want that they were used by the league to make money but, again, the players made a lot of money, too.  Don’t expect any sympathy from the rest of us.  Filing the lawsuit is much more disappointing to us than any loss on the field.

In an interview, Richard Dent said the lawsuit is not about the money and that he makes more money now than he did playing football.  I suppose the suit was filed so current and future generations of NFL players aren’t treated the way the suing players were.  If that’s the case, the older players could simply use their experiences to tell the younger players to object to being given the painkillers.  They should also then tell them not to expect to get paid.  If they refuse to take the painkillers, I’m sure there are hordes of players that would gladly do it for the chance to play in the NFL.

This is a suit that should be thrown out.  I love the NFL season and, as a fan of the Giants, Jets, 49ers and Raiders, happily set aside at least seven hours every Sunday to watch the game.  Throwing the suit out will make a lot of people, including and maybe especially NFL fans, cheer.


May 22, 2014

mcdonalds hot coffeeWhile I’m on the topic of frivolous lawsuits, here’s an article that explains why a woman successfully sued McDonald’s in 1992 because her coffee was too hot, which always seemed like the king of frivolous lawsuits.  It turns out the suit was legitimate after all.

About Dan Walker

As part of an Air Force family, I went to elementary school in Great Falls, MT, junior high in Cheyenne, WY and high school and college in the San Francisco Bay Area, graduating from San Francisco State University with a degree in business. I was fortunate to have worked for great companies in Silicon Valley (Oracle Corp) and Hollywood (Miramax Films). I also lived and worked (primarily in financial services, which has no great companies) for eight years in Manhattan, New York City. I now reside in New York's beautiful Hudson Valley.

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