Former NFL players allege league illegally provided drugs to mask major injuries

Anwar S. Richardson
Shutdown Corner
Former NFL players allege league illegally provided drugs to mask major injuries
Former NFL players allege league illegally provided drugs to mask major injuries

Just as the NFL was hoping to move past the concussion lawsuit settlement, which still remains unsettled, a group of former players are alleging more misconduct from the league.

Eight former players, including three members of the Chicago Bears’ 1985 championship team (Jim McMahon, Hall of Famer Richard Dent and Keith Van Horne), filed a lawsuit on Tuesday alleging the league obtained and administered drugs illegally, plus says they were not supplied prescriptions or warned about potential side effects. The lawsuit alleges those tactics were used to get players back on the field to maximize profits.

Attorneys are seeking class-action status, and claim more than 500 other former players have joined the lawsuit.

Players allege they were never told about their broken legs and ankles. Instead, they were provided with pills to deal with the pain.

"The NFL knew of the debilitating effects of these drugs on all of its players and callously ignored the players' long-term health in its obsession to return them to play," Steven Silverman, attorney for the players, told The Associated Press. His Baltimore firm, Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin and White, also represents former National Hockey League players in a concussion-related lawsuit.

McMahon said he sustained a broken neck and ankle during his career, but was given medications instead of sitting out. McMahon claims team doctors and trainers never told him about the injuries, and he eventually became addicted to painkillers.

Despite the allegations,’s Mike Florio, a former attorney, believes it will take years before there is a resolution to the current lawsuit:

This new wave of litigation will present some of the same challenges for the players as the concussion lawsuits. First, the league will argue that any relief must be pursued not in the court system but through private arbitration. Second, the league will argue that the players assumed all or part of the risk of long-term health consequences by taking what they had to take to play.

If the players can prove that doctors prescribed painkillers improperly and/or failed to adequately explain the risks of chronic use, the players could be able to overcome some of the various hurdles.

Teams will likely allege players never disclosed their injuries in order to continue playing and receiving large paychecks. Expect a lot of mud to be thrown by both sides.

Of course, the real winners in these lawsuits are usually the attorneys that will enjoy compiling enough billable hours to earn more money than most current NFL players.

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Anwar S Richardson is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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