The prevalence of prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) drug usage within athletics is uncomfortably high. One article published online by The Washington Post stated, “a 2010 study of 644 league veterans from the Washington University School of Medicine found that retired NFL players misuse opioids at a rate more than four times that of their peers. A significant percentage reported either overusing painkilling opioid drugs within the past 30 days or taking the drugs without a prescription — or both.”
As an athletic trainer who works with football, I see the great physical, mental and emotional toll a sport takes on one’s body. I doubt I could find a football player, or any collegiate athlete, who does not feel sport related discomfort on a daily basis. But that is one of the costs of participating in high-level athletics. Where I believe the law and ethical lines get crossed is when an athlete needs copious amounts of medication to get through the day. Are we really doing our job to protect our athletes if he or she needs prescription strength ibuprofen or a narcotic to perform? I understand the need for returning athletes to play as fast as possible but at what expense? Do our athletes understand the effects he or she may experience five, ten or fifteen years later after routinely taking medication? Do they even know what they are taking?
These are some of the questions and complaints that sparked the DEAs investigation. I feel that this lawsuit has and will continue to keep athletic trainers and other medical professionals accountable for the drugs he or she handles. After reviewing the NATA’s Consensus Statement: Managing Prescriptions and Non-Prescription Medication in the Athletic Training Facility I am reminded of my role in the distribution of prescriptions or OTC drugs. Here are some key facts to remember:
-Athletic trainers work under a physician’s license and cannot dispense medications. We are able to administer a single dose of an OTC drug, but even so, it needs to be under the direction of a physician, whether it be via a verbal or written order.
-While traveling, one should have a signed formulary stating what OTC and/or prescription(s) that is to be managed by the athletic trainer. (The physician also needs documentation that he or she has practice rights within the visiting states)
-Documentation of what drugs are distributed should be recorded in the athletic training facility. Records should include: patient’s name, injury/illness, medication given, dose, quantity, lot number and date.
-All drugs should be kept in a locked metal cabinet that is environmentally controlled and accessible only to necessary medical staff members.
-Educate athletes on the drugs being consumed, why it’s prescribed, what the dosage is, and potential side effects.
We need to do a better job of advocating for the health of our athletes, educating athletes on later effects of decisions made now and documenting when medications are given out. #TogetherWeMustDoBetter
Check out the articles and NATA Consensus statement below:
Kelly Brock LAT, ATC