Over the last 10 years or so the big stories have been performance enhancing drugs and then concussion awareness. I think the next big thing will be pain killers. Within the next 10 years or so pain killing shots will become against the rules in the NFL and other sports. We often hear about a player going into the locker room to get a shot like it’s no big deal and it’s just part of the job, but let’s contemplate this.
When your body is in pain it’s your body’s way of telling you to stop and that it needs time to heal. Messing with that process through drugs is a very dangerous thing to do. We’ve all heard the tales of retired NFL players who live in constant pain and can hardly make it out of bed in the morning, most notably Earl Campbell. When you don’t give your body time to properly heal and keep subjecting it to punishment this is a natural result. Is it worth it for a 10 year career in the NFL for 30 years of pain afterwards?
Another factor to consider is that like any other drug it of course is addictive. I don’t know of any cases off the top of my head, so let’s make up a guy. We’ll call him ‘Brett’. Let’s say that Brett is a star player on a super bowl winning team who feels like he has to play every game for his team to be successful. In doing so he has to take pain killers or he wouldn’t be able to play. Then Brett gets addicted to those same pain killers and suffers both embarassment and withdrawal as he tries to overcome his addiction. Is this something we want for our star players to go through?
Obviously if pain killers are no longer an option players will be able to play less and rosters by necessity will have to be larger and we could see a 15 game schedule played over 18 weeks so that players have more time to rest. But for the long term health of the sport and its players this would be progress. The culture of the NFL is steadily changing away from machismo and towards player long term health. This should be the next step.
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