A lawsuit filed on behalf of over 500 former NFL players has grabbed headlines in the sports world and beyond. The gridiron veterans say that the trainers and doctors around them regularly pushed them to take painkilling drugs that helped them get back into the game after they’d been injured.
According to the former players, the trainers and doctors provided the drugs in abundance, sometimes without a legitimate prescription and without any discussion about the possible side effects of painkillers.
The retired players say they did as they were told, and now they are paying the price, with problems like kidney failure, lung, nerve and heart dysfunction, addiction and deformed bones and muscles. The players are asking that someone besides themselves pay for the damage.
But do they deserve to charge someone else for the consequences of their own decisions? Most Americans make it a habit to ask up front what the side effects of any medication may be. In general, Americans take responsibility for the medical care they receive. It’s hard to imagine an employee in another field blaming their boss for the fallout of taking pain medication to deal with an office-related injury.
Team Management’s Pressure To Push Painkillers Despite Negative Consequences
Obviously, NFL players are highly motivated to stay in the game. Relatively short careers and fierce competition for every position are daily realities within the sport. Team owners and managers are also highly motivated to keep strong players in the game and win. That puts them in an awkward position. Their short-term goal of winning is sometimes at odds with what may be in the best interest of the player.
In the off-field exam room, everyone (including the player) is motivated to get the athlete back in the action. Players may even push themselves for a quick fix. But decisions made in the heat of such a moment are probably rarely the ones anyone would make in a less charged environment.
In the case of the former NFL players’ suit, it has yet to be established that the athletes were fully informed of all the risks associated with the drugs they were given. It may be helpful to examine how much choice the players actually had and currently have in such instances. For the future, the NFL may want to consider providing at least one cool head not swayed by immediate pressures.