Monday, February 6, 2012

Toradol...the NFL's next dirty little secret

This past week leading up to the Super Bowl was a celebration of everything NFL. Not even an interesting report on HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel about a little drug called Toradol could upset King…er…Commissioner Goodell’s celebration last week.

I’m sure most of you still don’t know what Toradol is or the risks--as this was swept under the rug…again…so as to not interfere with the celebration. That’s not to say that some media outlets (especially in Chicago) wrote about it, but it was just one of the stories that you had to look for if you lived elsewhere. And, why did it play in Chicago? Brian Urlacher, defensive lineman for the Chicago Bears.
Yes, Urlacher was interviewed for HBO’s Real Sports and admitted to using Toradol 40 to 50 times in his 12 year career, although he didn’t use it last year.

Let’s back up a second…Toradol is the drug of choice for many NFL players who are injured and want to keep playing. According to Jeremy Newberry (a center who played 10 years for the 49ers, Raiders, and Chargers) and was really the main subject of the Real Sports report, Toradol makes you “feel like Superman.” For three hours it takes away the pain and lets you play with abandon. It is this generation’s wonder drug. The last wonder drug was cortisone. We now know that continued use of cortisone leaves you with tissue damage, bone degeneration, and even bone death.
Toradol is a blood thinner. The risks of continued use are stomach bleeding, kidney failure, and the possibility of more concussions and more severe ones, because you cannot feel anything.

Newberry has been diagnosed with Stage 3 kidney failure and the doctors have said that the excessive use of Toradol is the cause. He said in the interview, as a football player you expect to walk away with certain injuries, but not with this.
Another issue is that players have not been informed of the risks…although, as Urlacher said after being told the risks he would still use it because he wants to play every down.

This mindset is one that many NFL players have…after all, they are our gladiators…hitting other players and trying to stop them from scoring.
From all accounts this drug is widely used…with as many as 30 players on a team lining up for a shot before a game.

Urlacher and Newberry are not the only players who did not know the risks of prolonged use of this drug. Super Bowl champs NY Giants just put up a notice in their training room this year about Toradol’s risks and in the postseason were thinking about banning it. Sounds like a good move by the Giants…but where were they 12 or 15 years ago?
Here’s another news item we didn’t hear too much about--at the end of last year 12 former NFL players filed a suit against the NFL. They say their concussions were worse and they claim they might have had more concussions and not felt it. They claim that Toradol helps masks traumatic concussions.

Oh, and while the owners locked out the players last summer, one thing they didn’t work on was the health insurance for former players. Did you know that the NFL’s health insurance does not cover collision-related injuries? So, the entire sport is hitting and collisions…and the NFL is still not taking care of its own? I think it’s safe to say that every player gets at least one concussion during his playing time. And, we’ve seen the significant long-term effects of these concussions. And, now, they don’t have care…they are faced with significant medical expenses for these significant medical issues—with debilitating anxiety, depression, short-term memory loss, severe headaches, dizziness, and changes to their personality.
We are hearing more and more about former players and the effects of concussions on them. And, as we move forward even more will be coming out. The NFL has slowly moved to become aware and start working on this. They did form a Head, Neck, and Spine Committee in 2010 to advise teams and research best practices for concussion prevention and management, as well as for avoidance or protection against other head, neck and spine injuries. So, to allow players to use a drug that contributes to more severe concussions doesn’t make sense.

Even a neurologist, who is an advisor to the Committee, said that those using Toradol should not be playing a contact sport.
The NFL’s medical advisor, Dr. Lawrence Brown, does not think Toradol is an NFL issue, he thinks the decision to take it is between the player and the team doctor. And, he was happy that Real Sports was informing players on the risks—not owning up to the fact that maybe this responsibility belongs to the league.

This mindset reminds me of when former players first started talking about concussions. And, we all know that we still haven’t even scratched the surface on concussions—not with so many still suffering. Not with good men like Dave Duerson taking his own life. The late Dave Duerson, former Chicago Bear, was an intelligent, kind-hearted, level-headed man with a good sense of humor. That’s how I remember him. I interviewed him while he was a Bear during a summer camp for kids. He knew football wouldn’t last forever and he had a plan for his life after football. He had a spark and was charismatic.
He shouldn’t have gone out like that. He and his family should not have suffered in that manner.
The NFL has a long way to go in taking care of their current and former players. It’s time to stop sweeping it under the rug and facing it head on. These men deserve better.

Step up and do the right thing. Do what they would do for you.