NFL players face unhealthy system when it comes to treating injuries
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While NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is considering whether to suspend players for seeking cures from the syringe-wielding physician Anthony Galea, he should ask why so many of them distrust their team physicians and seek alternative ways to heal. Medical care in the league is not a simple issue. Anyone who says otherwise should read up on O.J. McDuffie's case.
Two weeks ago former Miami Dolphins wide receiver McDuffie was awarded $11.5 million by a jury because his team physician turned a toe injury into a career-ender. Let's be honest: NFL players suffer extremes of pain, and it's considered perfectly okay for league doctors to mask it. Yet Santana Moss faces a penalty for seeking an injection that was not numbing but potentially restorative to the bum knee he has been playing on for three years. What sense does that make?
McDuffie describes the NFL ethic: "You're supposed to play hurt, but you're not supposed to play injured." It's a small but vital distinction and players rely on team doctors to tell them the difference. Everyone in the league is in some kind of pain -- they have joint problems, microtears, they need medication, or some other kind of pain management -- and the trick is to keep it from becoming catastrophic. While there are no doubt many ethical and excellent doctors, the system is rife with conflicts and unnatural pressures. First of all, the doctors are hired and paid for by management. It's compromised medicine -- and an NFLPA survey of 1,152 players a few years ago reflected a trust gap between many players and their doctors. On one team only 19 percent felt they received trustworthy care.
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