ESPN: NFL Painkiller Study Finally Released

Jan 28, 2011

We’ve written about the hypocrisy of the drug culture in the NFL over the past three years. On the one hand, you’ve got the Commish running around like Chicken Little enforcing the steroid bans while on the other hand, you have a large number of current and retired players surviving day-to-day on the “legal” painkillers that the NFL chooses to ignore. (Read our post The NFL Drug Cultureclick HERE.) Last year, we posted a request from Washington University and ESPN for retired players to participate in an anonymous study on pain management and the use of painkillers. (Read the original request from February 2010 – click HERE.) We just heard back from John Barr this morning:


Hi Dave –


I hope you are well. Remember that study on painkiller use by retired NFL players that you helped us publicize within the retired player community? Well it actually got published! It appears today in the online edition of the peer-reviewed scientific journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence. It will come out in the print edition of the journal in the next two or three months.


I would be grateful if you would direct your readers to our series of stories on which detail not only the study results but also related stories on the link to concussions and the use by current NFL players.


Thanks for considering and be well.


John Barr

Reporter, ESPN Enterprise Unit




You can access the online version of this study by clicking HERE.


5 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Reggie Harrison aka Kamal Salaam-El
    January 28th, 2011 at 6:49 pm #

    Reggie Harrison

    I’m glad to see this article published – I must have been overlooked in this study!

    After back surgery failed to stop my pain, I was referred by a friend to a pain doctor here in the DC area. Being retired and disabled, I thought my medication would be covered but it was costing me well over $1,300.00 per month which my wife had to help me pay until we got the monthly raise. Not being able to afford the expense, I had to have my medication changed and now the cost is around $850.00 per month. If anybody finds out that these medications are covered by our insurance, please let me know. I am taking OPANA (oxymorphone), OXYCODONE, OXFAST (liquid oxycodone) & METHADONE. I’d like to have another surgery but the doctors think that would cost me my ability to walk at all.

    After taking all this medication, NFL now means “No Feeling Left“!

    Reggie Harrison
    Kamal Salaam-El
    Pittsburgh Steelers
    1974 – 1977

  2. Dave Pear
    January 28th, 2011 at 8:02 pm #



    Thanks for having the courage to come forward and speak the truth!

    The more retired players who come forward and tell their stories, the more compelling our battle for justice becomes.

    We have recently been contacted by another doctor and clinic who will be offering medical treatment to disabled retired players at NO charge. This treatment will include transportation along with professional care by qualified doctors trained in the United States with an MD from a real college of medicine.

    No more quack doctors like Ira Casson (better known as Dr. “NO”). This fraudulent doctor employed by the NFL seems to have disappeared and should lose his medical license to practice medicine and then be sued for malpractice! How could any medical professional make the outrageous statement that “There is no scientific evidence that getting hit in the head does NOT cause brain damage or early onset dementia”? What a quack!

    I wonder if Dr. “NO” will still be receiving his Super Bowl tickets this year from Roger Goodell?

    Stay tuned for more details, Reggie!

    Dave & Heidi Pear

  3. Ray Bracken
    January 28th, 2011 at 11:41 pm #


    Hi Dave!

    I didn’t know about the NFL and the very hurt and painful smiling faces of the hard-fighting men who play football. But even in my world, it was a Sunday School picnic compared to what I have read about your friends and former co-workers in the NFL and what THEY are going through.

    So let me say this: ANYBODY who is a civilian and does not know about the drugs that are being taken and have to keep taking, they should get the movie “NORTH DALLAS FORTY” with Nick Nolte that showed me a little about what life is like in the NFL and how they get young kids to live on drugs to WIN at any cost.

    Thank you for e-mailing me as much as you do. God bless all of you guys in the NFL Players’ Union. Make medical care an issue at the top of bargianing for all of the guys just trying to live a somewhat healthy life and the ladies who are helping you every day.

    Ray Bracken
    Retired UAW employee

  4. Greg Davis
    January 29th, 2011 at 9:23 am #

    Greg Davis

    North Dallas Forty may still be the most accurate portrayal ever written of the actual atmosphere and the culture itself. While it may be dated, the themes are still accurate.

    Greg Davis
    Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots, Arizona Cardinals
    Minnesota Vikings, San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders
    1987 – 1998

  5. Rick Hayes
    February 2nd, 2011 at 4:47 pm #

    Aloha Dave and my Brothers of Former Players:

    It warms my heart to see Dave’s contribution to our Revolution and also my fellow Huskies like Jarvi having thier educated and experienced voices heard by the NFL and NFLPA. I am well-versed on the painkiller medication problems we face in our attempts to live a life after football. Although I had a short career and I am not vested, I face severe injury problems. I would mention my painkiller dosage but I am afraid it would divert from the real issue of assistance from the NFL or pre-1993 Players. My Rookie year was the Strike of 1974. I was told by our Player Representative to cross the Picket Line – [FYI – There wasn’t one] which I regret to this day. Later that season, I suffered a fractured cervical spine above a previous fusion at C6/7. I was actually an NFL guinea pig for the neck problems occurring in the NFL being the first Player to attempt to play after a cervical fusion in College in collusion with the NFL.

    The L.A. Rams tried to kick me out the back door and neglect paying my Contract which I had to resolve through Court proceedings. I have had over 15 Major Surgeries on nearly every joint in my body; this is not even considering fractures, dislocations and concussions. (I find myself nearing 60 years old and taking 960 mg of prescribed oxycodone/oxycontin daily.)

    After persistent attempts of communication for help from the NFLPA, to their credit, they did finally step up and offer to walk the talk by putting up some funds to attend a Pain Management Recovery Center. Unfortunately, the facility was poorly operated and not my preferred location that would have offered not only physical aquatic therapy but was accredited for wheelchair clients.

    At the very least, the NFLPA did attempt to help and should be credited for that simple fact. Maybe they’re changing in Baby Steps. The NFLPA should negotiate into the new CBA with the NFL Owners an accredited rehabilitation and therapy center for Players living in Chronic and often Acute Pain. Possibly an assisted living facility is the answer. What do I know – I am a washed-up Former Player living a life centered around Opiate addiction. To them, I’m just an addict! What do we have to do to get proper medical care besides have the American Public pay our medical bills? An $8 Billion $$$ business!!! Please consider us an important factor in the CBA Agreement – if there is one.

    My Aloha to Dave and Bruce and other Players living my same life,
    Frederick Rick Hayes
    L.A. Rams 1974
    UW Huskies 1969-1973
    UW Huskies