"NFL Seeking Pain-Management Alternatives to Opioids..."

"NFL Seeking Pain-Management Alternatives to Opioids, Offering $1M Grants on Proposals

The NFL is offering grants worth up to $1 million to members of the medical community who can offer alternatives to opioids for pain relief.

Dr. Kevin Hill, co-chairman of NFL-NFLPA joint pain management committee, said the league will continue to study the efficacy of cannabis for pain relief. Dr. Hill said the "level of interest far exceeds the level of evidence" on a conference call Tuesday.

Opioids have long been used within the NFL as a way of treating both short-term and long-term pain associated with injuries suffered playing football.

Coverage of the NFL's use—and, at times, allegations of overuse—of opioids dates back more than a decade. An Outside the Lines study found 71 percent of players who were prescribed opioids misused them, with more than half of the players surveyed saying they took painkillers.

The University of Florida released findings that said half of former NFL players who used painkillers early in their retirement were still using them nine years later. The continued use of opioids were correlated with cognitive decline.

Opioids can be highly addictive, with some NFL players battling addiction issues after their careers.

“I was running through those like nothing,” former NFL lineman Aaron Gibson told Ken Belson of the New York Times in 2019. “One doctor who thought he was the only one treating me said, ‘Aaron, what I’m prescribing you is what I’d give a Stage 4 cancer patient.’”

Proponents of medical marijuana say cannabis helps relieve pain without the same addiction issues. The NFL has long resisted allowing its players to use marijuana. However, new testing policies under the 2020 collective bargaining agreement have loosened the formerly restrictive rules.