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Athletes and Pain Meds

Dillon McClernon

Authored by Dillon McClernon

It often starts with a sports injury.

Addiction doesn’t discriminate and professional athletes as well as collegiate athletes are not immune from the disease of addiction. “Athletes often get hurt and they desperately want to keep playing. They go to the doctor or have surgery and Percocet, Vicodin, or Oxycontin are prescribed. Once the prescription is filled, these opiates can be abused by the athletes themselves, their teammates, or someone in their family or friend group,”’ says Domenica Personti, CEO of Recovery Centers of America at Bracebridge Hall.

Just like that, an opiate addiction can start leading to unimaginable personality changes, criminal behavior, and, in the case of nearly sixty thousand Americans in 2017, death by overdose.

Professional and collegiate athletes have huge demands placed on them by coaches, parents, teammates, owners, and colleges which puts them under pressure. The mental and physical stressors of being a professional or collegiate athlete can push even the strongest of people to abuse drugs or alcohol. Athletes endure high levels of pain from injuries that occur on the field and take substances to enable them to play while injured.

“There’s a growing need for addiction treatment tailored to meet the special needs of athletes who lose their way either due to pressure or because of sports injuries and become addicted to drugs or alcohol. Our program is designed to meet that need and help all of these athletes make a comeback in life,” says Personti.

Opioid addiction affects kids in high school to professional athletes.

It is estimated that 1.4 million injuries occur annually across nine sports at the secondary school level and about 209,000 injuries occur annually at the collegiate level spanning 25 National Collegiate Athletic Association sports. Professional athletes are among the five occupations that had more than 1,000 injuries per 10,000 workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Retired athletes are also at risk.

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). Specifically, 14.3% of retired players reported opioid use only as prescribed, whereas 11.9% reported misuse (not prescribed or use other than as prescribed).

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2.5 million people aged 18-25 reported misusing opioids in the past year. This age group is more likely to abuse prescription opioid pain relievers than any other group of people in the United States, according to the report.

Young athletes, especially in high impact sports, have a higher exposure to prescription opioids due to sports-related injuries than nonathletes and those in other sports. These youth may, in turn, be at greater risk for opioid misuse or addiction such as opioid use disorder, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the American Journal of Public Health.

Athletes often don’t want to admit they have a problem. Their intense focus on achievement causes them to push their bodies to the breaking point. However, that singular mental intensity can also be harnassed during recovery in order to get well. The Professional and Collegiate Athlete’s Program at Recovery Centers of America Bracebridge Hall puts athletes suffering from addiction together as a team for recovery; yet each player has their own personal path to success.

Sitting on over 500 beautiful acres, the program utilizes an environment that complements both mental rebuilding and body rebuilding. RCA’s Professional and Collegiate Athlete Program offers evidence-based substance use disorder treatment with masters in the field of recovery along with tailored nutrition plans, specialized athletic equipment and training, and medical evaluations specific to individuals and their sports. Tennis courts, a golf simulator, batting cages, and the additional option of acupuncture/cupping techniques are also available.

RCA certified trainer and nutrition consultant Paul Norris, a national level body builder says, “A customized training session that is perfect for a patient’s unique background will be developed which could include batting cage time, dribbling and shooting skills, throwing techniques, or running routines along with chiropractic and physical therapy. This in combination with nutrition, goal-setting, and proven scientific-based addiction treatment can get an athlete back on the road to mental and physical recovery.”

Returning to a healthy lifestyle on and off the green was key for Tiger Woods’ recent comeback and it can be for all athletes too with treatment that works.

Authored by

Dillon McClernon

Dillon McClernon

Dillon currently serves as the Senior Director of Sales and Marketing at RCA. After his tenure as Chief Communications Officer and senior advisor to RCA, he opted for a full-time position at RCA where he could build a new team linking sales and marketing to directly impact RCA’s mission of saving 1 million lives.


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