Great 3 part series by Dan Wiederer and Chip Scoggins of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Talks about the aftermath of spending years in the NFL as a player and the struggles in retirement.
NFL and pain: Fleeting glory, bodies past repair
"The ending came quietly.
On New Year's Day, after 13 seasons, Jim Kleinsasser played his final NFL game, spending the three last hours plowing into whatever defenders got in his way.
The Vikings tight end never touched the ball. He simply did what he'd been conditioned to do over the 181 games of his career: Sacrifice his body for the good of the team.
As part of that routine, before suiting up to be a battering ram, Kleinsasser took a pregame painkilling injection of the anti-inflammatory drug Toradol.
He learned long ago that the ideal NFL survival strategy requires a macho mentality. Suppress the pain, stay available -- no matter what it takes...."
NFL and pain: League zeros in on one pain medication
"During a 13-season NFL career, defensive tackle Warren Sapp cherished those days he was close to pain-free, those games he could race onto the field with nothing but adrenaline pumping through his veins.
"I was in the trenches, boss, with contact every time," Sapp recalls. "And trust me, when I was feeling good, it was a great feeling to go into a ballgame without a shot, without a pill, without two Advil. Oh, man. Come on. I wanted it that way."
And when did that exhilarating, pain-free feeling typically wear off?
"About Week 3," Sapp said.
Life in the NFL is frequently an avalanche of pain -- often nagging, sometimes excruciating. To survive, a player's ability to suppress discomfort is mandatory. And often that requires a bit of medicinal magic on game day, the current drug of choice being Toradol, a nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory drug...."
NFL and pain: Pain doesn't stop with a player's retirement
"When players leave the locker room for the final time, damage lingers. And for some, addiction begins.
Third of three parts
CLIFTON, N.J. — Ray Lucas needed to shave, but he couldn't stomach looking at himself in the mirror. That, of course, is when he actually made it out of bed.
Once a popular quarterback for the New York Jets, Lucas became a person even he despised after retiring from football in 2003 at the age of 31. He wasn't a loving dad, devoted husband or loyal son. He no longer lived in a cocoon of adulation in a city that worships its sports stars.
Instead, he was a drug addict.
His daily existence revolved around consuming a cocktail of painkillers. He downed them by the handful, sometimes 80 pills a day, a habit that cost him $2,200 a month. He lost his job and then his upscale home.
A severe neck injury suffered during his playing days left him debilitated and in constant pain. He needed surgery but had no insurance. He battled depression on top of his physical ailments. So he medicated himself, and withered, until he reached the moment he mapped out his suicide.
"This is the picture that nobody gets to see," Lucas said...."