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NFL hurting from new litigation by former players over painkillers

Monday, 16 June 2014 By Joseph M. Hanna
The NFL’s litigation woes continue. On May 20, 2014, the league was hit with a lawsuit brought by a group of retired former players1 claiming that the NFL illegally supplied them with narcotics and other painkillers to mask their injuries and keep them on the playing field, intentionally ignoring the risks these drugs had on the players’ long-term health.2
The filing3 insists that the actions by team doctors and trainers were illegal because team medical personnel never obtained prescriptions, failed to keep drug records, and didn’t explain the side effects of the pills that they handed out freely.
Several of the high-profile named plaintiffs include three members of the 1985 Super Bowl Champion Chicago Bears, defensive end Richard Dent, offensive lineman Keith Van Horne, and quarterback Jim McMahon. McMahon says that his playing injuries included a broken neck and ankle. However, instead of being diagnosed, removed from play, and treated, McMahon says he was given medication and pushed back into the game. This steady diet of pills made him an addict – McMahon recalls that at one point in his career he was taking over 100 Percocet painkillers every month. Van Horne made similar allegations, recalling how he played an entire season with a broken leg by relying on a steady supply of painkillers. Not only that, Van Horne states that he wasn’t informed of the injury for five whole years.
J.D. Hill, a former wide receiver for the Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions and another named plaintiff in the suit, states that the drugs he received while playing in the NFL destroyed his life. He noted, “As a player, you get all of these drugs for free over the years of your career. Then suddenly you are released and the free supply stops overnight.4 Hill eventually turned to street drugs and became homeless due to his addiction, bouncing in and out of rehab centers for the next 20 years. He went on to comment, “I was provided uppers, downers, painkillers, you name it while in the NFL . . . . Never took a drug in my life, and I became a junkie in the NFL.

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Joseph M. Hanna

Joseph M. Hanna

Joseph Hanna is a partner of Goldberg Segalla and concentrates his practice in commercial litigation with a focus on sports and entertainment law and retail, hospitality, and development litigation. Joe represents sports franchises, professional athletes, and movie studios with various issues related to licensing, contracts, and day-to-day management. He serves as Chair of Goldberg Segalla’s Sports and Entertainment Law Practice Group and editor of the firm’s Sports and Entertainment Law Insider blog. In addition, Joe is the Chair of Goldberg Segalla's Diversity Task Force. He possesses an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell.
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