'Dogs football uses painkiller exposed as potentially dangerous

January 4, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Action News has discovered a potentially dangerous drug injected in football players across the country, is used at Fresno State. And a former NFL player from the Valley is very familiar with the drug exposed by an ABC News investigation.

The drug is called Toradol -- an anti-inflammatory painkiller approved by the FDA in 1989. But a new lawsuit and ABC News investigation are highlighting the risks.

Several college football institutions, including Fresno State, have been evaluating Toradol for the past two years -- but many are still using it. And players tell Action News the drug works really well to get them on the field without pain.

In his time at USC, Armond Armstead did whatever it took to stay on the field and menace quarterbacks. When pain threatened to keep him away, his attorney says trainers used Toradol to get number 94 back out there.

"They would inject him before the game started, they would check with him at half time bring him back and inject him again," said Roger Dreyer.

The manufacturers' warning label on Toradol specifically says the drug is not intended for prolonged periods. The risks include a fatal heart attack, stroke or organ failure. But Armstead's attorney says team doctors didn't fill him in, and at 20, he suffered a heart attack -- despite having no family history of heart issues. He's now suing the university.

The drug's use is widespread in football, though. Former Fresno State star Cameron Worrell says he got a shot before about 50 of the 56 games he played in the NFL.

Worrell says he knew the risks and was hesitant to get his first shot as a rookie, but veterans assured him they'd had no problems.

The former safety says he doesn't remember seeing the drug at his alma mater, but Fresno State admits it is used by the football team.

"Fresno State sports medicine physicians use a variety of medications, including Toradol/Ketorolac, to treat student-athletes with active symptoms," said senior associate athletic director Paul Ladwig in an email statement. "The risk-rewards of using these medications make them not the first choice for prevention of post-game soreness for student-athletes."

They do track the use of all painkillers by players, but wouldn't tell us how many times Toradol has been used in recent seasons.

No matter the number of shots, Fresno Dr. Bill Ebbeling says athletes are playing with fire when they mask injuries with painkillers.

"Well, some people think the short-term benefit of numbing it is beneficial, but everything has a cost-risk benefit," he said.

Dr. Ebbeling says there are risks even with more common painkillers, like Novocaine and Lidocaine.

In the case of Toradol, the side effects have been connected with high dosages and extended usage.