Being a professional athlete comes with a lot of stress on and off the field. You have to live up to the money you are making, perform at your best in front of large crowds of people and sometimes on national television. You have to be able to take the criticism and push on all while taking your body to the extreme. For athletes who play in very physically abusing sports like football and rugby, we are seeing trends of major abuse of opiate based painkillers.
The National Football League in America had some bad publicity last year when a class action suit was brought against them by ex-players for the amounts of prescription painkillers that were given to players to stay on the field. Many of the medications came through illegal means such as a trainer (not a medical doctor). The same issues are being seen now with the National Rugby League.
According to reports South Sydney Rabbitoh’s pair Dylan Walker and Aaron Gray almost lost their lives, only saved by the last minute when a friend rushed them to the hospital after he had noticed they had overdosed. The overdoses created major controversy through the Australian sport and is creating quite the story. As more and more anonymous insiders of the league begin to express their concern, it is becoming very obvious that the league has a serious health crisis on its hands.
According to Gavin Crosisca an AFL premiership player, former coach and now addiction counselor says that abuse of prescription drugs is a massive issue in the United States and that Australia is likely to follow suit. “I know from doing training and work in the US that it’s a huge issue for them,” said Crosisca, a recovering drug addict himself. “In terms of the abuse of drugs and painkillers, I still think we’re catching up to America. Painkillers, Oxycodone and so forth are a real issue over there.”
“What’s happened in America with the meth situation, 15 to 20 years ago, is only starting to rear its head here. So I think that’s the same with painkillers and prescription drugs. It’s coming for sure, don’t worry,” said Crosisca.
Staff members of different teams are beginning to speak out and share what is really going on behind closed doors. Besides anti-inflammatories and sleeping aids, painkillers are hugely abused in the sport. The hard part about stopping the abuse is the medications are legal in the system of players and since this is the case, it is hard to tell if players are using them as prescribed or if they are taking them to abuse, get high or party on. Either way the problem is relevant and it is sad that two players overdosing is what it took to bring the issue to the forefront but expect to see some serious drug policy changes made as the NRL has to clean up the mess made by the abuse of prescription opiates.