If you haven’t heard, the NFL has a prescription drug problem. Opioids prescribed by team doctors to treat pain have led to addiction and, in the worst cases, death. We saw the situation hit bottom when former New York Giants safety Tyler Sash died of a painkiller overdose in 2015. He was 27 years old at the time. Sash, who ended his NFL career after a concussion two years earlier, also suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) following repeated head injuries.
According to reports from ex-players as well as a number of lawsuits aimed at the NFL, team physicians would hand out opioids like candy. Later, a university study on retired football players showed they abused drugs prescribed for pain at four times the rate of the rest of the U.S. population.
As America’s opioid epidemic worsens, NFL officials are looking into ways for players to manage pain during and after their career. This search led to an increasingly popular answer: medicinal marijuana. The NFL’s chief medical officer indicated he is ready to begin researching the effects of marijuana as an alternative to pain. This move could help stem the problem in the country’s richest sports league and set an example for others to follow.