It’s the bone-crushing hits and collisions that draw millions of viewers to the National Football League every weekend. But few fans see the wreckage behind the scenes. And that post-game reality is a bleak one, full of pain, injury, and trauma. But that’s the game, after all. As one former player describes it, “Pain does not deter an NFL Player. It lights the way.” The question is how to best respond to the reality of that pain. And in the face of addictive pain-killing options, more former NFL players are turning to pot over pills.
No Pain, No Gain
The more your hurt, the more you bruise and bust your body for your team, the further you go in your career as a football player. And that drive to succeed, along with the NFL’s interest in keeping the harsh reality of the game hidden from fans and young players, means players will do anything to play through the pain.
Nate Jackson, former Denver Broncos tight end, tells a harrowing story about pre-season training camps and post-game locker rooms across the country. There, he says, needles, pills, and addiction rules the day. Broken legs, pulled groins, torn hamstrings, all just the coin of the realm for NFL players.
Want to make the team at a new position? Trying to make into the starting line? Here’s a shot of Kenalog or Toradol, a bottle of prescription painkillers to help you over the bar. “Superman Juice,” some players call the steroid and anti-inflammatory shots they receive with alarming frequency.
A World of Hurt For Former NFL Players
The NFL’s approach to pain and injury management can be seen as a success from one angle. The game is more popular and generating higher revenue than ever. But, some ask, at what cost? As players leave their careers in the league, what happens to them?
For many, the truth is what Nate Jackson has seen happen to too many of his friends: an all-consuming addiction to the dangerous drugs so easily available to the League’s players. Toradol, that “Superman Juice,” thins the blood, and it makes the effects of hard hits worse on players’ brains.
Some suggest abuse of the drug has led to worse concussions. At the bottom of all those bottles of pills is an unavoidable problem: addiction to painkillers.
Exercising the “Green” Option
When players leave the league, their bodies are still damaged from their years of service to the game. But without the pressure to perform, and wiser from the tragedies of those that went before them, more former NFL players are turning to pot over pills.
The “green option” is one supported not just by ex-players, but current players as well. Many current and former players, like Eugene Monroe and Kyle Turley, are at the forefront of a vocal movement which is arguing that medical marijuana’s pain-suppressing and possible neuroprotective benefits make it potentially potent treatment for the effects that chronic concussive blows to the head have on football players.
But there’s another reason to turn to medical cannabis over pills, argues Nate Jackson. Marijuana can restore a player’s relationship with his body. A relationship made strange and “dishonest” by potent painkiller’s deadening effects.
The fact that NFL players have tools at their disposal to make the pain “disappear” from their bodies has caused players to push themselves into territory they may never recover from. By contrast, cannabis says Jackson, “reframes , allowing a speedier recovery and a more complete understanding of the injury.”