Former NFL Players Allege League Illegally Supplied Painkillers

By Shawn Dwyer 05/20/14

Eight ex-NFL players are claiming they were given pain medications to mask serious injuries that caused addiction and medical complications later in life.

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McMahon in 1993. Wiki Commons

Last Thursday, a group of former professional football players filed a lawsuit alleging that the NFL illegally supplied painkillers to players to hide injuries in order to keep them on the field and thus boost profits. The players claim that their injuries caused addiction and long-term medical problems later in life.

"I was provided uppers, downers, painkillers, you name it while in the NFL," said one of the plaintiffs J.D. Hill, a former wide receiver who played for the Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions in the 1970s. "I became addicted and turned to the streets after my career and was homeless. Never took a drug in my life, and I became a junkie in the NFL."

A total of eight former players are filing the lawsuit, including three members of the Super Bowl-winning Chicago Bears. Jim McMahon, quarterback for the Bears in the 1980s, claimed that he suffered a broken neck and ankle injuries that were never disclosed by doctors. Instead, he was given medications and pushed back onto the field to play.

McMahon also took part in a separate lawsuit filed in 2011 over the league’s alleged mishandling and negligence regarding concussion-related injuries. In 2010, he admitted having memory problems and later was diagnosed as being in the early stages of dementia.

The current drug lawsuit seeks to add more players in order to reach class action status, as well as an injunction that creates an NFL-funded program that tests and monitors drug use while preventing addiction among players.

Their attorney, Steven Silverman, stated that the league knew what they were doing when doling out painkillers. "The NFL knew of the debilitating effects of these drugs on all of its players and callously ignored the players' long-term health in its obsession to return them to play," he said.

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Shawn Dwyer is a writer, editor and content producer living in Los Angeles. You can find him on Linkedin.