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NFL’s “magic potion” has risks, players like Urlacher don’t care


Closeup of syringe, or needle. Credit: Stickler/Getty. Original Filename: 84425860.jpg


In an intriguing feature included in tonight’s new Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel (HBO, 10:oo p.m. ET/PT), Andrea Kremer explores the NFL’s “magic potion” that “masks pain from head to toe.”

The wonder drug goes by the name of Toradol. It’s not a narcotic, it’s not addictive, it’s legal to use.

And plenty of players are using it.

Former NFL center Jeremy Newberry tells Kremer that, when he played for the 49ers, players lined up for a dose of Toradol before games. “I’ve seen lines of 20 or 30 of them standing there waiting for a shot,” Newberry.

The popular medication entails risks, including destruction of joints and damage to the stomach, liver, and kidneys. And the players aren’t necessarily aware of those risks.

Kremer explained some of the risks on camera to Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher, who said he has used it throughout his career and compared it to a flu shot. It was news to the 12-year veteran. “No,” Urlacher said regarding potential gastrointestinal bleeding. “I did not know that.” As to a possible impact on kidney function? “I did not know that.”

Now that Urlacher knows the risks, will he keep using Toradol? “Even now knowing the risks I would still take the Toradol shot,” Urlacher said. “And I probably will.”

Urlacher then echoed what we’ve heard so many times in so many contexts -- football players want to play football. He even mentioned, without prompting, the fact that he’d hide a concussion to play football.

And as we’ve said time and again, these grown men have the right to assume those risks in order to play pro football. Far greater risks are taken by men and women who engage in far less lucrative professions.

The problem, of course, is that former players may feel differently after their careers end about the risks they took. That’s why there’s a lawsuit pending against the NFL alleging that Toradol either masked or exacerbated concussions symptoms. And that’s why the NFL and the NFLPA at some point need to come together and craft a comprehensive document that any player who plays in the NFL will sign, in which the player acknowledges that playing football and taking medications that will help players play football entail risks that the player freely is accepting in order to play pro football.