US & Canada

NFL players sue league over painkillers

Richard Dent poses with a bust of himself during induction ceremonies at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio 6 August 2011 Image copyright AP
Image caption Richard Dent, one of the lawsuit's plaintiffs, is a member of the league's Hall of Fame

A group of retired American football players have sued the National Football League, claiming it illegally gave them painkillers to keep them playing.

The players named in the suit say they were given narcotics and other drugs without a prescription, and had health issues and addictions as a result.

A NFL spokesman said their lawyers had not yet reviewed the lawsuit.

The league previously settled a case that accused it of concealing it knew the risks of multiple concussions.

It settled that lawsuit for $765m (£454m), without admitting wrongdoing.

In a complaint filed on Tuesday in a US court, lawyers for the eight named players said the NFL had "intentionally, recklessly and negligently created and maintained a culture of drug misuse, substituting players' health for profit".

The retired players include three members of the NFL champions 1985 Chicago Bears - Richard Dent, Keith Van Horne and Jim McMahon.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Former NFL quarterback Jim McMahon (centre) was also a plaintiff on the NFL concussions lawsuit

The suit seeks class-action status, and says more than 500 other former NFL players have signed up.

In addition to unspecified financial damages, the players are seeking to require the NFL to create a testing and monitoring programme to help prevent addiction and health issues from the use of painkillers.

"The NFL knew of the debilitating effects of these drugs on all of its players and callously ignored the players' long-term health in its obsession to return them to play," Steven Silverman, a lawyer for the players said in a statement.

Mr McMahon alleges said he suffered a broken neck and ankle during his time in the NFL, but was never told about those injuries by team doctors. Instead he received medications and returned to play.

The complaint also alleges Mr Van Horne played an entire season on a broken leg, and was not told about the injury for five years "during which time he was fed a constant diet of pills to deal with the pain".

And former player JD Hill allegedly "received hundreds, if not thousands, of pills from trainers and doctors, including but not limited to NSAIDs [anti-inflammatory drugs], codeine, Valium and Librium", without a prescription or warning of potential side effects.

Mr Hill said he left the NFL - after a career in the 1970s - addicted to painkillers, and became homeless as a result.

In a statement to the Associated Press news agency, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said: "We have not seen the lawsuit, and our attorneys have not had an opportunity to review it."

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