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Another Promising Athletic Career Ruined by Painkillers

I read a news story today about a former high school and college athlete, DJ, who lost a promising career as an athlete due to an injury. But it wasn’t the injury that put him on the sidelines, it was the prescription drugs he took for the pain. How does taking a painkiller for an injury turn into addiction?

JD played football and wrestled in high school and went on to play All-American lacrosse in college. In his junior year, he tore a rotator cuff and the fibrocartilage that helps keep the shoulder joint in place – both can be extremely painful.

The usual treatment is rest, heat or ice, physical therapy, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin or ibuprofen. If the aspirin and ibuprofen aren’t enough, the next step would be steroids – usually a cortisone injection. If none of that works, surgery might be recommended.

And usually, after a period of several weeks, things are back in shape.

However, what DJ did was continuing playing lacrosse – with the help of the prescription painkiller, Percocet.

DJ didn’t just take Percocet for a week or two, he took it for the entire lacrosse season – which could last several months depending on practice and play-off times – so he could keep playing. He became physically addicted, and that was the beginning of the end.

If DJ was getting the Percocet from a doctor, some are given the drugs by their coach, the doctor would have at some time – but not soon enough – stopped giving him prescriptions. Then, if DJ could afford it, he would have started getting the drug on the street. But getting prescription painkillers on the street isn’t cheap, and eventually he turned to heroin – which is affordable.

Along the way he also got involved in criminal activity to support his habit. As he said, nothing is more important than the drugs.

According to the article in, the injury occurred in 2010. “Four years later,” said the article, “he was clinically dead in a halfway house on Long Island after overdosing on heroin. He was told he had been revived, died again, was revived and died again before he was brought back a final time.”

DJ had been to 18 treatment centers and recovery homes, but while sitting in a jail cell, he finally decided to get serious about life, went to rehab once again, and has now been in a recovery home for four months, and he’s turning his life around.

DJ is FAR from the only person this has happened to. In fact, getting addicted to painkillers after an injury is very common. DJ is one of the lucky ones.

The basic problem here is that once you’re off the field because of an injury, you might never go back in play. So, innocently, for your teammates, the school, and your career, you take the drugs – never dreaming that the consequences could be death or something very close to it, criminality, shooting up heroin, and landing in jail.

DJ is one of the lucky ones. Parents, athletes, their friends, other relatives, coaches, and doctors need to be aware of this kind of situation and insist on doing proper treatment for the injury, and preventing drug addiction.

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