By Ken Reed

Anyone who watched League of Denial, the Peabody Award winning PBS documentary about the NFL’s grossly unethical approach to player brain injuries, will not be shocked to learn the details of a new lawsuit brought by former players against the league. The suit, which seeks class action status, alleges that the NFL recklessly and illegally provided painkilling drugs to players, “substituting players’ health for profit.”

The plaintiffs, including Richard Dent, Jim McMahon, and Keith Van Horne of the 1985 Chicago Bears claim NFL team doctors handed players pills in unmarked envelopes, prescribed harmful drug cocktails without any education, and gave permission for coaches to send players back on the field risking short-and-long-term harm.

The lawsuit claims that the actions of NFL doctors was consistently the antithesis of the duties of sports medicine physicians, per the American Medical Association’s guidelines:

… physicians should assist athletes to make informed decisions about their participation in amateur and professional contact sports which entail the risks of bodily injury. The professional responsibility of the physician who serves in a medical capacity at an athletic contest or sporting event is to protect the health and safety of the contestants. The desire of spectators, promoters of the event, or even the injured athlete that he or she not be removed from the contest should not be controlling. The physician’s judgment should be governed only by medical considerations …

This new lawsuit certainly didn’t come out of the blue. There have been multiple studies in recent years detailing narcotic abuse in the NFL. In one report, journalist Paul Solotaroff of Men’s Journal wrote, the NFL is “so swamped by narcotics that it closes its eyes to medical malpractice by many of its doctors and trainers. It does so not because it lacks the will to police its staff and players, but because the game itself could not survive without these powerful drugs.”

The cornerstone of the problem is a classic case of conflict-of-interest, in which doctors pay NFL teams for the right to treat players. In essence, NFL owners have team doctors right where they want them. As such, team doctors’ decisions are governed by ego and financial considerations, not medical considerations.

The NFL, an ugly league, just keeps getting uglier.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


Comments are closed.

Set your Twitter account name in your settings to use the TwitterBar Section.