NewsBriefs BUTTONS

About One in Ten NFL Players Addicted to Painkillers


May-June 1997

As many as ten percent of the National Football League's (NFL) 1,500 players are addicted to painkillers, according to a special report published by the New York Times on April 13 (Mike Freeman, "Painkillers, and Addiction, are Prevalent in N.F.L.," The New York Times, April 13, 1997, sec. 8, p. 1).

Although the use of drugs is both against league rules and illegal, many players are dependent on massive doses of unprescribed painkillers to dull the pain of injuries received playing professional football. Some players have traded game tickets with pharmaceutical sales representatives in exchange for drugs. Because these deals are usually discreet, prosecutions and convictions rarely result from such transactions. Painkillers exchanged include Vicodin®, Indocin®, and Tylenol® with codeine.

The NFL has attempted to limit the practice by requiring an inventory of each team's prescription medications, and guarding them. However, not all teams comply with control standards, and players report that their access is not substantially restricted by these measures.

1997 Super Bowl champion quarterback Brett Favre of the Green Bay Packers admitted last year that he was addicted to Vicodin®. Mike Sharrard, an 11-year veteran who played for the Denver Broncos, as well as for Dallas, San Francisco, and the New York Giants, recalls, "just about every player was on anti-inflammatories or painkillers."