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Atlanta Falcons Concerned About Excessive Reliance On Painkillers

— February 3, 2017

A heavy dependence on painkillers is never a good thing, especially if word gets out that your professional NFL players have an “excessive” reliance on them. This is what happened to the Atlanta Falcons. Recently, emails dating from 2010 were “entered into court last week as part of a proposed class-action lawsuit by more than 1,800 former NFL players who contend they were urged to consume painkillers without regard for the long-term consequences to their health.” The series of emails revealed that Falcons trainers and members of the management team were concerned that their player’s growing dependence on painkillers could “embarrass the team and league.”

Fuel for the lawsuit came about when the Falcons’ team trainer, Marty Lauzon, contacted the team’s general manager, Thomas Dimitroff, and expressed concerns “about the team’s drug-dispensing procedures, much of which was discovered by an outside agency reviewing the team’s practices.” What exactly were his concerns, though? Well, according to Lauzon, his concerns included “high dispensation of narcotics and regular medication compared to other clubs” which creates a culture “of dependency and goes against healthy lifestyles and care, even for an NFL player.” He added, “my concern is also with these players at the end of their careers going through medical issues, and also with the ease of access to media outlets that can provide them the opportunity to say they abused or are now addicted to a number of medications.”

NFL; Image By Tom Hauck,
NFL; Image By Tom Hauck,

Dimitroff forwarded the trainer’s concerns onto the Falcons owner, Arthur Blank, and eventually, the two met with the team president, Rich McKay, to discuss the matter. The “league’s controversial longtime medical adviser,” Elliot Pellman, was also made aware of the situation. Despite the meeting, little is known about “what happened next or what further steps the team took to change its practices.”

But what qualifies as an “excessive reliance?” Were Falcons players really using that many painkillers? Well, yes. To put things into perspective, the typical NFL team spends about $30,000 on medications each year. In 2009 alone, “the Falcons spent $81,000.” The league itself has “been sensitive to the drug practices of its 32 teams” over the years, and have even worked in partnership with the DEA to “provide instruction on safe and legal practices.”

For now, Lauzon has taken the reigns as the team’s new director of sports medicine and performance, and the lawsuit is “being heard in the Northern District of California.”


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