The Pain Game: Drugs, Doctors and Pro Sports – the fifth estate

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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?

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24 COMMENTS

  1. all drug dealers need salesman. Big Pharma, no different uses doctors and they pay bonuses on every prescription. Ask your doctor if he gets rebates!

  2. He knew what he was doing. He also bought them on the street spending 10's of thousands of dollars on them.

  3. I'm honest I use oxycodone and hydrocodone for almost 10 years broke my spine in in 2003 got major nerve damage playing hockey…now I can walk but I'm going for the last resort last week I got 2 nerves burned true I got 8 to go result no more pain no more walking ..and a change to kick my addiction …..thanks doc

  4. Was Boogard Doctor shopping? I mean, how or why was he getting scripts for pain Meds from multiple doctors?! Usually folks go to one doctor, get a script and that's it but Boogard went to different doctors and amassed large opiate scripts..drug seeking behavior if I've ever seen it

  5. Feel for the dads loss but it's not doctors fault that his son overdosed..his son was in massive pain and he was prescribed OxyContin..this is very normal in pro sports but the son chose to drink alcohol AND take OxyContin together ( a huge No No) and he paid the price..despite what most people think, it's not easy to overdose on OxyContin..it takes quite a large amount over your existing tolerance to shut your body down..

  6. Redefine sport. Sport is meant to be about playing a game, money needs to be pulled out of so many things in this world because it corrupts everything. Greed and stupidity seem to be a disease on this planet. If nobody bothers to watch "professional junkees playing sports" then there will also be no money in it.

  7. Anyone who watches sports is to blame for this. TURN THE GLADIATORS OFF AND MAYBE THE NEW ROME WILL STOP FALLING APART !!

  8. Americans are a bit weird i must say. They treat their doctors the same way as their military, very naively.. then act shocked, and look for someone to blame (?

  9. 00:04 I have never seen a writing style like this, maybe this is why no one can understand what the hell doctors write by hand.

  10. CNN has a story of a Med that now contains tracking device… I’m unsure if it is truthful but the article focuses on Schizophrenia, a psychotic disorder, includes symptoms of delusions and hallucinations… That’s creepy if tracking devices that we don’t wish to have monitoring us is now possible being used to monitor some… I believe if it is being done then it will be not just with people with the listed disabilities of schizophrenia but with almost all people on meds otherwise it would be discrimination for the people being monitored… They claim it is so they can see what time the meds are taken as if the government needs to know that… A news report said almost 50% don’t take their med on time… Another loop hold is is it just a story that isn’t fully true… Even if it is approved by fdc then does the government have to pass laws for it to take place by state as well… Or if a person on the med says I don’t wish to take meds with a tracking device does that mean then legally their can’t be one in that individuals medication… I’ll tell you for certain I don’t want tracking device in my meds… It is said that only 1.2% people in the United States have schizophrenia… However there are also numbers saying 58% of the people in the United States are on prescriptions as a total for all disabilities and sicknesses… So the monitoring would most likely be the 58% possibly with this new tracking service…

  11. We also live in a society where we are groomed since birth to not question those in perceived authority. We're taught to believe that our country is good and they're there to look out for our best interest. We put way too much faith in these institutions instead of questioning and looking out for ourselves.

  12. Why are people jailed for selling marijuana but not these doctors and drug companies who peddle far worse drugs?

  13. to an extent.. seems like all these stories are the same.. its not like these guys don't know, especially by now, that these drugs are dangerous.. but we keep making this 'addiction is a disease' excuse.. addiction is exactly what it is, a bad habit.. calling addiction a disease means it can happen to anyone and it removes the individuals responsibility..it also sets up for biases in services for addicts.. all of a sudden theres an opiate epidemic now that certain people are being affected but the drug problems in low income areas have persisted for decades

  14. Probably an Ambian addict as a result of deficient pain medication. The disarray and food takeout indicative of not being able to do routine house cleaning and cooking due to pain. Over prescribing pain meds is not as bad as under-prescribing… An intimate relationship between doctor and patient, perhaps even inpatient observation is required to properly diagnosis and prescribe pain meds. When under-prescribed the patient is not allowed to function in such a way as to overcome the pain triggers… in effect, you only deliver enough relief for one to "lie in state," not hurting but not able to function. When someone can continue with normal functions the body has a remarkable ability to work out the underlying issues or triggers. In the past with knowledgeable doctors, I never took pain meds more than 3 to 6 months before regaining my full function and abstinence. Since going to the VA, under-prescribing and labeling as a drug addict has forced to me into much longer exposures to ineffective relive that never allowed me to regain function, only stung along, month to month. Looking at Booguards list, his issues seem to be the lack of appropriate meds. 20 mg. of Oxy, 3 times a day, to me is well within successful recovery from pain issues. 10 here, 20 here, not a good plan… Instead they only prescribe enough to get him on the ice, afterwards, who cares. When I have enough pain meds I am eager to meet the day, do what ever, and CAN SLEEP with out Ambian…. When under-prescribed, I am barely able to sleep, get out of bed, and can only manage to make to a recliner where I am relocated to spend the remainder of my day, unable to over come, or due to fear of, pain. Opioids are a slippery slope, and require much more interaction with health care providers… they do work, but must be done right or they will fail every time, and only produce addicts.

  15. Obviously a lot went wrong here. But I was a student of Medical Administration and I can clarify that appropriately prescribed medications when taken every 4 hours will amount to quantities of 180 per 30 day period of time. So measurement should not be made in terms of impressions, such as 10 looking small so 180 is must be too much. His individual counts were not large. It was their aggregate and variety which was dangerous, along with his history.

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