Super Bowl: A celebration of concussions and narcotics

Minneapolis is trying mightily today to woo the National Football League to the city for the Super Bowl in 2018. Odds are that by then, the league will still be the most popular sport in America despite every scandalous piece of evidence that could give a person a reason to turn away.

Coincidentally, the latest came today when a group of retired NFL players filed suit against the league, claiming the league and team doctors regularly used painkillers to mask injuries.

The suit, filed in San Francisco, alleges the players weren’t told about broken bones and instead were fed pills and injections to mask pain, the Associated Press reports.

“I was provided uppers, downers, painkillers, you name it while in the NFL,” plaintiff J.D. Hill, who played for seven years in the 1970s, said in a statement. “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.”

Quarterback Jim McMahon says he got addicted to drugs because of the practice:

McMahon says in the lawsuit that he suffered a broken neck and ankle during his career but rather than sitting out, he received medications and was pushed back on to the field. Team doctors and trainers never told him about the injuries, according to the lawsuit.

McMahon also became addicted to painkillers, at one point taking more than 100 Percocet pills per month, even in the offseason, the lawsuit says. Team-employed doctors and trainers illegally administered the drugs, the lawsuit alleges, because they didn’t get prescriptions, keep records or explain side effects.

All of this comes on the heals of a settlement between ex-players and the league over concussions. The $765 million settlement has stalled, however, as ex-players have said it’s nowhere near enough to compensate them for damages.

And last week, a court refused to derail another lawsuit from a former player of the Arizona Cardinals that, if allowed to move forward, could lead to more widespread details being released, according to Forbes:

Thus, if the order remains uninterrupted, then the players in the Roy Green case may move forward with discovery. It is believed that the NFL has long feared the institution of any formal discovery process in the concussion-based litigation. If the court reached the same conclusion in the massive multi-district litigation, the NFL may be forced to settle for much more than the $765 million currently on the table.

Such a ruling, if extended to the hundreds of pending cases filed against the NFL, could mean that the disputes shall not be deemed to be exclusively reviewed through arbitration. Thus, the NFL would have to rely on new grounds in seeking dismissal of the lawsuits. Importantly, the NFL has already stated (but not thoroughly argued) that it may intend “to argue at a later date that such claims should be dismissed for failure to state a claim . . . and also because they are time-barred.” Even if the Eastern District of Missouri order is adopted, it will not signal the end of the NFL’s fight to remove the thousands of players’ claims from the courts.