Earlier this week, some retired NFL players filed a lawsuit against the league over their medical treatment during their careers. One of their chief allegations is that they were given powerful painkillers without being told of the risky side effects, which include addiction.
Three of the players in the suit — Richard Dent, Jim McMahon and Keith Van Horne — were members of one of the NFL’s most storied teams in the Super Bowl era, the 1985 champion Chicago Bears. Their coach, Mike Ditka, has reacted to the legal action with what, on the surface, seems to be a fairly logical response.
“If you don’t want to take [painkillers], don’t take them,” Ditka said in the Chicago Sun-Times. “I don’t think anybody ever forces anyone to do anything. If you don’t want to take it, don’t take it. If you wanted it, they were available. There’s no question about that.”
However, that response does ignore what we have to assume was tremendous pressure to do whatever it took to be able to play each Sunday.
Let’s say you were one of those Bears and a key player. You’re in pain after getting hurt. The team’s medical staff tells you that you’ll be OK to play if you just take these pills or get these shots. Now, how do you think Ditka would react when you tell him: “Coach, Doc says I could be good to go Sunday if I take some meds, but I’m worried about the long-term effects on my circulatory system from Toradol and the possibility of going into my post-football life addicted to Vicodin. So, sorry, I can’t play.”
What are the chances you would be around to dance the “Super Bowl Shuffle”?
And Ditka comes down firmly on the side of those who say all these guys knew what they were signing up for when they decided to make a career out of football, so quit your whining.
“The game of football has been too good to me,” said Ditka, an ESPN commentator. “I have injuries. I’ve had things that have happened to me. But I’m not going to sit back and complain what’s happened to me. I’ve had a great life playing the game. …
“Have I ever taken a pain pill? Of course, I took pain pills. Did I ever take injections? I took injections all the time to kill the pain — novocaine, cortisone. Did it affect me? Yeah. It shortened my career, but so what? I had a great career. I’m still living off football.”
(H/T Pro Football Talk)