Ex-players file painkiller suit against NFL

Three ex-Bears are among eight former NFL players who today filed a lawsuit against the league for illegally administering painkillers as a way to mask injuries.

Eight retired NFL players have filed a lawsuit against the National Football League, stating the league illegally used painkillers to mask injuries.

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court of San Francisco, says the league administered painkillers "without a prescription and with little regard for a player's medical history or potentially-fatal interactions with other medications."

It says the NFL supplied and encouraged players to use opioids, used to block and dull pain to "manage pain between games in a manner it knew or should have known to constitute a misuse of the medications and in violation of Federal drug laws."

Drugs specifically noted in the lawsuit were Toradol, a popular non-steriodal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAID) and local anesthetics such is Lidocaine.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy, in Atlanta for the league's spring meetings, said: "We have not seen the lawsuit and our attorneys have not had an opportunity to review it."

The lawsuit names eight players that played between 1969 and 1985, including three members of the Chicago Bears 1985 Super Bowl championship team: Richard Dent, Keith Van Horne and Jim McMahon.

Dent is the main representative of the putative class. The lawsuit states Dent received "hundreds, if not thousands, of injections from doctors and pills from trainers." Dent, according to the lawsuit, eventually became addicted to painkillers. When his career was over and he no longer had access to free painkiller, he was forced to turn to over-the-counter painkillers, which cost him "an extensive amount of money."

The lawsuit states that, in the NFL's not-stop pursuit for ever-greater profits, it has compromised the health of its players. It says the NFL poses "unique clinical challenges" and that "rather than deal with those challenges through bigger rosters, fewer games, or increased spacing between games, the NFL has illegally medicated its players as they were chattel, thereby maximizing profits and reducing costs."

The suit refers to a Bears playoff game against the New York Giants in which Van Horne could not raise his arm. In response, team doctors gave him two Percodan before both halves of play. He also claims he played an entire season on a broken leg.

McMahon "regularly received sleeping pills from trainers during the week and before games." He claims he was, at one point, taking more than 100 Percocet pills per month, even in the offseason.

Van Horne states bowls of Supac, a high-dose mixture of caffeine and aspirin, sat out in lockers, with many players taking it every day with their morning coffee.

The suit states McMahon recently found out he broke his neck at some point in his career. He claims it happened during a 1993 playoff game in which his legs went numb, yet he was doped up by team doctors and pushed back on the field.

The other players in the lawsuit are Jeremy Newberry, Roy Green, Ron Stone, Ron Pritchard and J.D. Hill.


Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fourth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.


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