The 2015 NFL exhibition season is underway. Sunday’s Hall of Fame of game is the–pardon the pun–kickoff for another season of America’s most popular sport.
But it’s the off the field issues that have me wondering if the NFL doesn’t have a role to play in America’s chronic pain issue.
Many of its players–particularly former players–are wracked by pain–brought on by their years in this compelling collision sport that we tune in to see 20 Sundays (Mondays and Thursdays) every year.
Prescription drug practices are under intense scrutiny in the U.S. thanks in part, to the Drug Enforcement Administration decision to reschedule hydrocodone and to a national discussion that seems to be dominated in recent days by the perils of narcotic pain medication.
It would appear that the very practices that the DEA, Centers for Disease Control and others are talking about also exist in the locker rooms of the NFL. This Washington Post story late last year points out the issue.
Yes, the NFL is being investigated by the federal drug agents for its painkilling practices based on the suspicion that NFL teams dispense drugs illegally to keep players on the field.
The NFL, which has been tone deaf on so many issues including spousal abuse, sexual assault and the impact of its own game on the health of those who play it, could actually get in front of things here if it decided to. And the way that the NFL influences our culture, it could have an impact.
Just imagine if the NFL decide to weigh in about chronic pain and how it’s treated might influence a national discussion on the topic.
It won’t, of course, because it would admit something it doesn’t want to–that the game itself is a cause of chronic pain among its athletes, especially once they leave the game.
A survey of 763 former players showed that the violence of the game 61% said they found it difficult to adjust to daily life after their career. According to an article in Newsday, the biggest challenge in retirement is health. In the survey, players said they are still affected by injuries to their knees (70 percent), lower back (67 percent), shoulders (65 percent), neck (56 percent) and head (49 percent).
Former New York Jets receiver Wesley Walker told Newsday he is in constant pain can’t sleep without medication and has suffered so much nerve damage and muscle loss that he needs help to remove the cap from a bottle of water.
Probably sounds familiar to a lot of pain patients.
While the development of a National Pain Strategy is of interest to many who suffer from and who treat chronic pain, it is a process that has been pretty narrow in how it has been developed. When it’s released this fall, will mean, we hope as it says in its draft report: ” the nation would see a decrease in prevalence across the continuum of pain, from acute, to chronic, to high-impact chronic pain, and across the life span from pediatric through geriatric populations, to end of life, which would reduce the burden of pain for individuals, families, and society as a whole.”
One way to accelerate that conversation would be if the NFL and the NFL Players Association became part of the discussion.
Don’t hold your breath.
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