Injuries are part of the deal when you’re an athlete. These men and women, especially the ones at the top of their sport, routinely put their bodies in harm’s way. We tend to think of the physical fallout of sports in terms of injuries sustained while in competition.
But think about the young men and women who sustain long-term joint, muscle and limb damage from years of practice and wear and tear. These types of painful conditions may not surface until a person is in his or her middle-age years.
Drugs In Sports Extends Well Beyond Steroids
When people think of professional sports and drugs, they may first think of steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs. But, prescription narcotic painkillers (opiates) and prescription stimulants are among the most abused medications in sports.
Painkillers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone may be prescribed for injuries and help players continue to perform despite their injuries. Stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall can provide the competitive edge players seek to stay focused and ahead of the competition.
Athletes May Be More Susceptible To Drug And Alcohol Addiction
Some argue that the very nature of professional sports lends itself to a loose culture of prescribing these medications. Some doctors dole out pills like candy. It’s also possible that repetitive competition and exercise can mess with players’ dopamine levels, setting them up for a vicious cycle of use and abuse. In addition, many professional athletes feel a very real void in their lives when their careers end or are sidelined with injuries. For many, prescription painkillers help to fill that void.
Physical activity is known to increase endorphins in the body and this can help in the relief of anxiety, stress and depression. Take away that exercise, and an athlete may notice a very real absence in their lives. This increases the chances that athletes will come to abuse substances such as alcohol or painkillers.
Who’s In A Position To Help These Athletes?
Mental health can suffer tremendously when a person loses his or her ability to perform or their livelihood. The ego can suffer an enormous blow when a professional player is injured or retires and is forced to give up the spotlight.
Team doctors and others are encouraged to look hard at who they’re prescribing too. They need to be able to identify those with a legitimate need for prescription painkillers and those who are targets for abuse.
Coaches are also urged to take athletes’ conditions under consideration. Forcing or allowing a player to continue competition despite injuries can wind up furthering the problem. Mental health experts can also play a role to avoid prescription painkiller addiction in competitive sports. Identifying triggers and dealing with emotional issues can help players fend off issues with addiction.