The NFL is no stranger to lawsuits and controversy, as from “DeflateGate” to the multi-billion dollar brain injury settlement, the league has had its fair share of bad publicity recently. Those problems now seem set to worsen after recently released court filings shed light on the culture of rampant, illegal abuse of painkillers present throughout the entire league.
The documents, which are an amended part of an NFL lawsuit filed in 2015 against the league’s 32 teams, allege that team management, coaches and doctors systematically violated federal regulations regarding the sale and distribution of prescription painkillers. Additionally, they also seem to provide fairly conclusive evidence that all of the teams completely ignored guidelines and recommendations from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) on how they were supposed to store, distribute, and track all controlled substances.
Details of the NFL Lawsuit Court Filing
The lawsuit was filed against the NFL by more than 1,800 of its former players, who also claim that team doctors and trainers basically forced them to take power anti-inflammatory medication and painkillers as a way to prevent them from missing any game time. The court documents seem to back up these claims. For instance, they show that in 2012 alone, the average NFL team gave out more than 5,700 non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and over 2,200 controlled medications, which equals out to around six or seven injections or painkillers a week for each and every player on the team.
As part of the suit, the former players are seeking an as-of-yet undisclosed amount in punitive and compensatory damages. In addition, they are asking that this settlement include continuing medical monitoring to ensure that the medications they were subjected to don’t have a lasting impact on their health.
A Culture of Widespread Abuse
Although the league vehemently denies any wrongdoing, the court documents point to this being a long uphill battle for the NFL and its lawyers and one that they’re likely to lose. Particularly damning seems to be the evidence brought about after seven league doctors were deposed by the players’ attorneys. During their testimony, each one of the doctors admitted to knowingly violating one or more federal drug laws in their capacity as team doctor.
Worsening the case against the NFL is the fact that the evidence also shows that the majority of teams allowed their athletic trainers to handle and distribute controlled substances and prescription medications. In fact, one of the former doctors alleges that, by 2010, this was true for the great majority of teams.
The problem with this is that only licensed doctors are allowed to handle and distribute these substances under federal law, although this isn’t something that seemed to bother the teams or their employees all that much. Included within the court documents is an email from Cincinnati Bengals trainer Paul Sparring that seems to back this up, as he asks a colleague for a copy of their DEA certificate before going on to brag about how he’s good at keeping the NFL “pill counters” off his trail.
Previous Prescription Drug Troubles
Although the court documents were only recently released, this isn’t the first time that the subject of prescription medicine abuse in the NFL has been brought up. In fact, this 2015 NFL lawsuit follows a similar lawsuit from 2014, also brought against the league by former players.
In the 2014 NFL lawsuit, hundreds of former players alleged that, instead of allowing them to undergo the proper, medical-recommended treatments for their injuries, they were given painkillers by trainers so that wouldn’t feel the pain and thus be able to continue to play. However, a judge eventually dismissed this case, stating that he felt that the issues brought up in the lawsuit fell under the scope of the league’s collective bargaining agreement.
Due to this precedent, there’s at least a decent chance that the new lawsuit may eventually end the same way. However, the cat is now out of the bag, meaning that no matter what happens, the NFL had better clean up its act if it wants to avoid future trouble.
Learn more about Drug Lawsuits.