49ers

GameDay: Who’s To Blame In The NFL Drug Lawsuit?

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Jeremy Newberry #62 of the San Francisco 49ers faces the New Orleans Saints during the game at Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans , Louisiana. The 49ers won 38-0. DIGITAL IMAGE. Mandatory Credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Jeremy Newberry of the San Francisco 49ers in January 2002. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Dennis-O'Donnell_BIO-HEAD Dennis O'Donnell
Dennis O’Donnell is the Sports Director at KPIX 5. He has receiv...
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KPIX 5 Sports Director Dennis O’Donnell hosts “Gameday” every Sunday night at 11:30pm on KPIX 5 and offers his unique sports analysis here.

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — Are Jeremy Newberry’s shocking allegations really that shocking? For years players have shared with me the dirty little secrets that go on behind closed doors of the NFL locker room.  The only difference now is that the secrets aren’t so secret anymore.

Newberry, Richard Dent, Jim McMahon and others have unleashed cold hard allegations about life in the NFL.  And, according to them, if you don’t play the game, you don’t play the game.

In the days following the lawsuit, I’ve received a ton of email ranging from hatred to the NFL to people asking why the players don’t accept responsibility for their actions.

Here’s the crux of the matter. Players can’t play without pain killers. They know it, the doctors know it and the coaches know it.

The culture that exists from the time the rookie walks into the locker room is that drugs are as much a part of the game as the shoulder pads, the grass and the game plan.  It’s not that a player wants to take pain killing medications; it’s that many feel cannot play without them.   From that perspective, I agree that a player should accept responsibility.

But the disturbing issue, for me, is Newberry’s assessment of how his medical records were ignored.  Newberry has medical records that show a kidney problem developing in 2004 when he played for the 49ers. The problem got worse in 2005 and 2006 because he continued to take injections of Toradol.

Newberry told me that the team doctor never once warned him that his kidneys were at risk.  It wasn’t until he was done playing football that he hired a private physician.   Given Newberry’s medical records, he was the first doctor to inform Jeremy that he had a serious kidney problem.   Newberry’s kidneys currently function at 30 percent.

So here’s the question: What if team doctors had informed Newberry of his urine analysis in 2004?  What if they had warned him that continued use of Toradol risks dialysis or kidney failure by the time he’s 40 years old?   Would Newberry have made the same decision?   Doesn’t he have the right to make that decision?   And that’s where trust comes in.

Players need to learn more about what is being injected into their bodies.   Read about the long-term effects and consequences of the pain killers.   For instance, I googled Toradol for this blog. It took me thirty seconds to find this result.

“Toradol can increase your risk of life-threatening heart or circulation problems, including heart attack or stroke. This risk will increase the longer you use Toradol.”

While players can research their meds, they are not doctors. They depend upon and trust that the team doctors will look after their best interest. They believe that team doctors will provide them with comprehensive analysis of medical tests. After interviewing Newberry and reading the lawsuit, that is clearly not the case, according the players.

It’s important to point out that I have not spoken to an NFL team doctor for their reaction, despite efforts to do so.

See you on TV.

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