The Pain Game: Drugs, Doctors and Pro Sports – the fifth estate
It’s the untold tale of prescription drug abuse in professional sport. An investigation by the fifth estate discovers a shocking story of the rampant over-prescription of drugs by some team doctors in major sports leagues.
Former Canadian NHL player Derek Boogaard was found dead in his apartment in 2011, after what was ruled to be an unintentional overdose of alcohol and the painkiller oxycodone.
But in the months after his son’s death, former RCMP officer Len Boogaard worked to piece together his son’s medical history and made a startling discovery – Derek had received hundreds of prescriptions from dozens of team doctors for a total of thousands of tablets of powerful painkillers and other dangerous drugs.
In football, too, over-medication is a problem many in the league are unwilling to face. Jeremy Newberry, who spent years as the all-pro center for the San Francisco 49ers, describes a dressing room assembly line for painkilling injections: “They will clear 30 people out within 3 minutes. You tell a normal doctor that…and they’re like, no, there’s no doctor in the world who would do that. Well, there’s 32 doctors that I know that do it all around the NFL.”
When these doctors’ first loyalty is to the team owners who pay their salary, and whose ultimate goal is to win, can they really have athletes’ best interests – and safety – at heart?