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Retired NFL players misuse painkillers more than general population
Date:1/27/2011

concussions that were not diagnosed. Some players believed they may have had up to 200 concussions during their playing days.

"Many of these players explained that they didn't want to see a physician about their concussions at the time," says Simone M. Cummings, PhD, a senior scientist in psychiatry who conducted phone interviews with the former players. "These men said they knew if they reported a concussion, they might not be allowed to play. And if you get taken out of a game too many times, you can lose your spot and get cut from the team."

She says players with suspected-but-undiagnosed concussions reported they borrowed pills from teammates, friends or relatives to treat the pain themselves, thus misusing opioids in an attempt to remain in the NFL. Although 37 percent of the retired players reported that they had received opioids only from a doctor, the other 63 percent who took the drugs during their NFL careers admitted that on occasion they got the medication from someone other than a physician.

Retired players currently misusing opioid drugs also are more likely to be heavy drinkers, according to Cottler.

"So these men are at elevated risk for potential overdose," she says. "They reported more than 14 drinks a week, and many were consuming at least 20 drinks per week, or the equivalent of about a fifth of liquor."

The ESPN sports television network commissioned the study, which also was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The ESPN program "Outside the Lines" spoke informally to many retired players about their use of painkillers. One reported taking up to 1,000 Vicodin tablets per month. Another reported ingesting 100 pills per day and spending more than $1,000 per week on painkillers.

Former St. Louis Rams offensive lineman Kyle Turley said in a statement to ESPN that he knew of many players who took drugs to help them deal with the pain inflicted by the injuries they sustained in the NFL
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Contact: Jim Dryden
jdryden@wustl.edu
314-286-0110
Washington University School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert  

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