Former Players Sue NFL Over Painkiller Use

A group of 12 former players brought the latest concussion-related lawsuit against the NFL this week, this one concerning the league's administration of the painkiller Toradol. As with the other half-dozen or so suits that former players have filed against the league in recent months, the players allege that the NFL did not do enough to protect them from concussions they suffered during their careers.

The group—which includes Joe Horn (pictured above with the Saints), Matt Joyce, and Jerome Pathon—accuse the league of negligence, fraud, fraudulent concealment, negligent misrepresentation and conspiracy. Their suit is unique in that it implicates the way in which the NFL and its teams distributed Toradol, which the players say exacerbated the plaintiffs' "risk of injury." Practically, Toradol is used to reduce inflammation and body pain. But the suit alleges that teams (and, in effect, their players) used the drug to "mask pain," which they claim only worsened long-term effects of the players' various head injuries.

From the filing, which is viewable in full below:

In some instances, Plaintiffs received the Toradol shots without reporting any injury prior to the Toradol use, with large groups of other players who also received the shots. Plaintiffs have described the situation as one of being in a pre-game locker room with players lining up to receive injections of Toradol in a "cattle call" with no warnings of any sort being given, no distinguishing between different medical conditions of the players, and regardless of whether the player had an injury of any kind.

Plaintiffs were thus medicated without proper warnings, without proper consent, and without knowledge of the risks posed by the use of Toradol.

Dustin Fink, the athletic trainer who also runs The Concussion Blog, wrote today that he had "witnessed the pregame ritual of Toradol injections, and for some cases it was the only way players could play."

The case references a 2002 study into Toradol use in the NFL, which found that the drug's blood-thinning effect put football players—who might not recognize acute pain after taking a dosage of the drug—at a greater risk. It's the rare mash-up of the NFL's scary drugs meeting the NFL's bad brains:

Toradol is not to be used if the recipient has a closed head injury or bleeding in the brain. "The bleeding risk of Toradol is an utmost concern in collision sports such as football. Even a small increase in bleeding risk can exacerbate high-risk injuries such as concussions, spinal cord, spleen, and kidney trauma."

Horn, a 12-year veteran, told The New York Times that he and his teammates "took it like clockwork," and were never warned of potential consequences down the road. The players involved in the case, all of whom played throughout the late '90s and into the early 2000s, say that they now suffer from "anxiety, depression, short-term memory loss, severe headaches, sleeping problems and dizziness."

The case brings a new dimension to the existing class action suits against the league (which has already disputed the claims) because it does not simply allege that the NFL didn't do enough to protect its players from head injuries. The Toradol accusation essentially claims that the teams—and, to a certain extent, the players, who had every motivation to dull their pain before games—actually took action to mask the short-term effects of those head injuries.

"Had I known that there were going to be complications," Horn told the Times, "I wouldn't have taken the shots."

Group of 12 Former NFL Players Brings Fresh Lawsuit Against League for Covering Up Concussion Risks During Their Playing Careers [Press Release]
Ex-Players Suing N.F.L Over Use of Painkiller [NY Times]