Super Bowl Blues

The 2018 – 19 NFL season has ended with a familiar conclusion:  the New England Patriots having won (their sixth such championship).

Are you among the people who watched the game and found it boring (‘worst ever’)*?  Did you forego viewing entirely? Are you among the majority (reportedly) of fans disappointed because those Patriots won?  Sad simply because the season is over?

February can be a slog for all of us in the Northern Hemisphere — sports like the NFL can keep us going, and so perhaps you, my dear reader, are a bit blue for any number of reasons?

Well, I do not have something to cheer you up per se — rather I have something, perhaps, that will make you more blue….but it is an issue of vital importance to our profession.  And we can’t turn our eyes askance.

Recently published ‘ahead of print’ is headline-making original research: Reasons for Prescription Opioid Use While Playing in the National Football League as Risk Factors for Current Use and Misuse Among Former Players.

Headlines indeed. Over the Super Bowl weekend the New York Times published an article profiling former NFL players and their struggle with chronic pain and opioid addiction. It referenced the CJSM study authored by Dr. Eugene Dunne of Brown University and his team of authors.  Some of the more important findings reported are that among “….retired NFL players with exposure to prescribed pain medication during their playing career 26.2% reported recent use of prescription opioids (past 30 days).”  Moreover, the authors found that the past may be midwife to the future: use of opioids to manage pain during their career was associated with a 30% increased risk of present-day use of opioids in retired NFL Players.

Opioid use and abuse is a public health crisis of unprecedented scale in the USA according to JAMA.  Sports are not untouched by this epidemic.  CJSM has always striven to publish important and relevant research which can be translated into practical use — we provide this platform for clinicians helping individual patient-athletes, and we provide this platform for public health advocates as well.  We devoted an entire issue (Sept 2018) recently to the oft-neglected subject of pain management in athletes.  Guest Editor Prof. Wayne Derman of Stellenbosch Univ., South Africa emphasized in our podcast with him that it is imperative that clinicians seek holistic methods of pain control and that researchers look more intentionally at the issue of analgesia in athletics. An over-reliance on pharmacology, most especially opioids, is a potential recipe for problems (to wit, the experience of former NFL players in this new CJSM study).

Join us in this work and the global conversation on issues of importance to athletes, clinicians, researchers and public health advocates by checking out some of these references and following us on Twitter. We’ll always keep you abreast of what’s new and breaking in our world of sport and exercise medicine.

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*P.S. I really enjoyed the Super Bowl. Though low scoring, I loved watching Pats’ defense flummox such a great Rams’ offense, and I thought the game was tense until the very end. How about you?

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