Ex-Players Sue: NFL Fed Us Illegal Painkillers

They allege greedy league doped them up, didn't tell them of broken bones

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted May 20, 2014 12:02 PM CDT

(Newser) – A group of retired NFL players, including three from the 1985 Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears, filed a lawsuit today alleging that the profit-thirsty league illegally fed them risky narcotics and other painkillers that numbed their injuries with no regard for health complications down the road. Players say they were never told about broken legs and ankles and instead were given pills to mask the pain; others say that after years of free pills from the NFL, they retired from the league addicted to the painkillers. The complaint names eight players, including Bears' Hall of Fame defensive end Richard Dent, offensive lineman Keith Van Horne, and quarterback Jim McMahon. Lawyers seek class-action status, and they say in the filing that more than 400 other former players have signed on to the lawsuit. Specifics:

  • McMahon says he suffered a broken neck and ankle he was never told about; he became addicted to painkillers, at one point taking more than 100 Percocet pills per month, even in the offseason.
  • Van Horne played an entire season on a broken leg and wasn't told about the injury for five years, "during which time he was fed a constant diet of pills to deal with the pain," the lawsuit says.
  • Former offensive lineman Jeremy Newberry describes lining up in the San Francisco 49ers' locker room with other players to receive powerful anti-inflammatory injections in their buttocks shortly before kickoff. Newberry played for San Francisco from 1998-2006, including one season in which he played in every game but never practiced because of pain. He retired in 2009, and because of the drugs he took while playing, he now suffers from renal failure, high blood pressure, and violent headaches.
The latest lawsuit seeks an injunction creating an NFL-funded testing and monitoring program to help prevent addiction and injuries and disabilities related to the use of painkillers. It also seeks unspecified financial damages.

This Jan. 16, 1986 file photo shows Chicago Bears defensive end Richard Dent chasing a loose ball during the NFL playoffs in Chicago.
This Jan. 16, 1986 file photo shows Chicago Bears defensive end Richard Dent chasing a loose ball during the NFL playoffs in Chicago.   (AP Photo, File)
In this Aug. 6, 2011 file photo, Richard Dent poses with a bust of himself during induction ceremonies at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
In this Aug. 6, 2011 file photo, Richard Dent poses with a bust of himself during induction ceremonies at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.   (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)
This Jan. 26, 1986 file photo shows Chicago Bears quarterback, Jim McMahon (9) bumping helmets with Keith Van Horne during Super Bowl XX in New Orleans.
This Jan. 26, 1986 file photo shows Chicago Bears quarterback, Jim McMahon (9) bumping helmets with Keith Van Horne during Super Bowl XX in New Orleans.   (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)
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I was provided uppers, downers, painkillers, you name it while in the NFL. I became addicted and turned to the streets after my career and was homeless. Never took a drug in my life, and I became a junkie in the NFL. - JD Hill, who played seven years in the '70s

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