The cracked ribs, sprained joints, and concussed brains of football players make it possible for the National Football League to turn a $13 billion annual profit.
Teams are willing to break federal laws to keep those players medicated and on the field, alleges a lawsuit filed in February by former players representing all 32 teams. NFL teams played it fast and loose when storing and distributing powerful painkillers, according to sealed court documents obtained by the Washington Post.
Several plaintiffs claim they blindly “received and consumed enormous quantities of pain-numbing and anti-inflammatory medications." Here's the thrust of the federal lawsuit, which shreds rare light on the cultural of drug use and abuse in pro football:
"Club doctors and trainers have distributed these controlled substances and prescription medications with little to no regard for the law or the players’ health ... Club doctors and trainers know that, if players are given adequate rest and do not return to the game, the doctor or trainer will be replaced ... The Clubs have established a business culture in which everyone’s financial interest depends on doctors and trainers supplying medications to players to keep them in the game."
The Brad Childress-era Minnesota Vikings are featured prominently in the lawsuit.
A 2006 memo from head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman to then-head coach Childress expressed concern that the Vikes weren't utilizing the powerful painkiller Toradol, the Post reports.
“[The Vikings] are at a competitive disadvantage ... I feel very strongly about this point," Sugarman wrote. "I feel that Dr. [David] Fischer is beginning to see my point of view on many issues. I also feel he is willing to change to improve.”
Then there's the 2007 "fiasco" surrounding the Vikings' haphazard record keeping of team drug supplies, which at that point included Toradol. From the lawsuit:
"In an e-mail dated January 7, 2008 to various team doctors and personnel, Minnesota Vikings head trainer Eric Sugarman stated 'Here is week 17's fiasco ... The following items did not match up this week. 1. Total of 16 Ambien given out was recorded, however only 11 Ambien were missing from the kit. 2. Total of 21 Toradol shots were recorded - however only 20 Toradol shots were missing from the kit. 3. Total of 1 Diphenhydramine shots were missing with no record of dispensing. There have been several times where the drug sheet and restock sheet didn't match but it was easily reconciled that day. There have been two incidences of drugs that have not been accounted for at all. 1. 12/17/07 -- Missing all 12 pills of cyclobenzaprine. 2. 12/23/07 -- Missing all 10 pills of SMZ/TMP 800-160 mg. In the case of the SMZ/TMP the whole bottle itself was missing from the kit.'"
A Vikings PR rep told City Pages the team cannot comment on active litigation.
You can read the entire court filing here, courtesy of Deadspin.