About six years into my career with the NFL, a trainer told us that we would all start getting blood tests to check our liver function. We were all healthy football players, mostly in our twenties. Why did we need liver function tests?
The trainers knew the medications that soothed our aches, pains and injuries could take a toll on our internal organs, such as the liver and kidneys. There were opioids. There were also nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Some were prescription pain relievers, some over-the-counter.
After those tests, I became far more wary about what I put in my body. But as a football player, you also want to stay on the field and keep your job. You take the medications that keep you playing. For players, then and now, opioids are a legal and well-accepted choice for pain relief. And guys, pumped after the emotional roller coaster of a professional football game, often turn to another drug to find equilibrium when they got home: alcohol.
After years on the field, though, many players I knew began to see marijuana as the safest and best intervention for pain relief and stress management.