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Retired NFL players using painkillers

Retired NFL players use painkillers at four times the rate of the general population, according to new research conducted by investigators at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The researchers say the brutal collisions and bone-jarring injuries associated with football often cause long-term pain, which contributes to continued use and abuse of pain-killing medications.

IN THIS YEAR’S SUPER BOWL, MANY PLAYERS WITH THE GREEN BAY PACKERS AND PITTSBURGH STEELERS MAY DECIDE TO “GUT IT OUT” AND DO WHATEVER THEY CAN TO PLAY IN THE BIG GAME, IN SPITE OF PAIN FROM INJURIES. BUT A NEW STUDY FROM RESEARCHERS AT WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE IN ST. LOUIS HAS FOUND THAT THERE’S A PRICE FOR SUCH HEROISM, NAMELY THE USE AND MISUSE OF PAIN-KILLING DRUGS CALLED OPIOIDS. JIM DRYDEN HAS MORE…

FOOTBALL INVOLVES BIG, STRONG, FAST MEN WHO HIT EACH OTHER VERY HARD AT VERY HIGH SPEEDS. GAMES FEATURE BRUTAL COLLISIONS AND BONE-JARRRING INJURIES. AND APPARENTLY, IN ORDER TO KEEP PLAYING, SOME ATHLETES IN THE NFL RESORT TO USING PAIN-KILLING DRUGS. WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY SUBSTANCE USE RESEARCHER LINDA COTTLER LED A TEAM THAT SURVEYED 644 PLAYERS WHO RETIRED FROM THE NFL BETWEEN 1979 AND 2006. THE RESEARCHERS FOUND THAT MANY PLAYERS HAD USED OPIOID DRUGS DURING THEIR PLAYING DAYS TO COPE WITH PAIN FROM INJURIES.

(act) :12 o/c 71 percent

Fifty-two percent of the retired players said that they had

used opioids, and 71 percent of them met the criteria for misuse:

71 percent.

AND IT TURNS OUT THAT THOSE WHO USED AND MISUSED OPIOIDS DURING THEIR NFL CAREERS WERE ALSO MORE LIKELY TO CONTINUE USING THE DRUGS IN RETIREMENT.

(act) :20 o/c abusing alcohol

We found that 7 percent of the former players misused currently.

These men are at risk for potential overdose. Plus, we found that

the people who were misusing were also more likely to be

abusing alcohol.

COTTLER SAYS THESE FORMER PLAYERS DRANK A LOT OF ALCOHOL. MOST CONSUMED AT LEAST 14 DRINKS PER WEEK, BUT IT WAS COMMON FOR PLAYERS TO REPORT THAT THEY HAD AT LEAST 20 DRINKS WEEKLY, THE EQUIVALENT OF A FIFTH OF LIQUOR. HEAVY DRINKING WAS A KEY “RED FLAG” FOR THOSE LIKELY TO USE OPIOIDS. SO WERE CONCUSSIONS, PARTICULARLY THE CONCUSSIONS THAT NEVER WERE DIAGNOSED BY A PHYSICIAN BECAUSE ALTHOUGH THE PLAYER RECOGNIZED THE SYMPTOMS, HE DIDN’T WANT TO SEEK TREATMENT, FEARING THAT IF THE TEAM KNEW ABOUT THE INJURY, THAT PLAYER MIGHT LOSE HIS JOB.

(act) :21 o/c undiagnosed concussions

The average number of concussions was nine. Some people said that

they had up to 200. Overall, 49 percent of these men said that

they had a diagnosed concussion, and when we asked them, “Have

you had any undiagnosed concussions?” 81 percent said that they

had undiagnosed concussions.

IN ADDITION TO DRINKING AND CONCUSSIONS, THE OTHER COMMON REASON RETIRED PLAYERS USED OPIOIDS WAS THAT PLAYERS CONTINED TO BE IN PAIN.

(act) :26 o/c their injuries

Eighty-eight percent of them said that at the start of their

career, they were in excellent health. By the time that they

were retired, they said that their health had gone down – so

only 18 percent said that they were in excellent health at

retirement. And in the last 30 days, only 13 percent said

that they were in excellent health. They’re really dealing

with a lot of injuries, a lot of subsequent and consequent

pain from their injuries.

THE STUDY, COMMISSIONED BY THE SPORTS TELEVISION NETWORK ESPN WITH ADDITIONAL FUNDING FROM THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE ON DRUG ABUSE, IS PUBLISHED IN THE JOURNAL DRUG AND ALCOHOL DEPENDENCE. I’M JIM DRYDEN…

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