Jon Lester of the Boston Red Sox was quite candid about his frequent use of toradol injections in a recent ESPN.com article. And quite frankly, that's frightening. I first wrote about this last July with help from my wife who was a nurse for decades in hospitals in Illinois and here in Maine. She was horrified that athletes were being injected with this stuff on a regular basis. The ESPN.com article linked above not only states that doctors have been injecting this for Lester and others, but that team trainers, who are not authorized to make such injections are doing so as well.
The key thing to note here is that toradol is typically used after an operation to aid with inflammation. It is not supposed to be used long-term. There are serious side-effects for some patients. In my previous article on the subject, I copied this quote from drugs.com:
"Toradol is used short-term (5 days or less) to treat moderate to severe pain, usually after surgery. It is used alone or in combination with other medicines."
There was also this warning of side effects:
"Toradol can also increase your risk of serious effects on the stomach or intestines, including bleeding or perforation (forming of a hole). These conditions can be fatal and gastrointestinal effects can occur without warning at any time while you are taking Toradol. Older adults may have an even greater risk of these serious gastrointestinal side effects."So how, then, did this specific model of usage come to professional sports? And does the fact it did show that teams AND players are complicit in finding any "legal" means for subjecting athlete bodies with anything that can aid in the performance of producing a sporting act? I think it does. This is the culture of big-money sports.
And this being the nature of sports, is it any surprise that the constant quest of aiding the body in the performance on the field has led to the PED problem the sport now faces? The only real difference between the PEDs that are legislated against and things like toradol, cortisone and blood transfusions or whatever it is that athletes do is that some are legal and some are not. Lester repeats over and over that toradol is legal.
Yes, it is legal. But is that the point? The only point of legislating against PEDs and its users should not be the "cheating" aspect so often associated with such usage. The point is about the long-term health of the athletes. Putting the focus on the former instead of the latter helps baseball and other sports to overlook the abuse of what are legal drugs used in non-standard ways.
I have watched a bazillion games on television. I have seen the trainers on the Yankees hand out pills and a cup of liquid to all Yankee players before a game, yes, even to Derek Jeter. Perhaps these are only pain killers. But should pain killers be used when there might not be pain? Even over-the-counter pain killers have side effects. Who knows, maybe they are only vitamins or salt pills. But the level of blind trust is the problem. Trainers dispense. Players ingest.
The story from ESPN and the words coming from Jon Lester are frightening. They are also illuminating. They do not make the doctors in the Red Sox' locker room or the pitcher all that much different than some clinic down in south Florida and the athletes that may or may not have used there. Lester and the physicians and trainers in Boston show that the money is so big and the pressure so great that injections of a drug so totally out of its normal usage model illustrates why players take PEDs. Toradol is a PED. Other pain killers and muscle relaxers may be legal, but they are PEDs too.
It's time to stop worrying about who is cheating and start worrying more about what we allow players and teams to risk with athletic bodies. Oh, and that story's disclaimer that there is not a definitive link between the emergency Clay Buchholz experienced and toradol is just another symptom of an eye being covered up just before it gets poked out.