The Painful Truth About Toradol

Yahoo! Sports details the use of the powerful painkiller by the Red Sox.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports dropped another Red Sox-related bomb this morning. This one focuses on the team’s former trainer injecting players with the powerful painkiller Toradol. The practice, Passan reports, went on for six seasons:

Mike Reinold, an athletic trainer and physical therapist for the Red Sox who was fired after last season, used Toradol to treat players, mostly Boston’s pitchers, [Curt] Schilling and three other sources said. Toradol is a legal substance and isn’t banned by Major League Baseball. The Massachusetts board of Allied Health Professionals, which regulates trainers in the state, has disciplined multiple trainers in recent years for injecting patients, regardless of the drug administered.

The risks are abundant, according to doctors. Toradol use can cause excessive internal bleeding as well as damage to the kidneys and liver, and by allowing a trainer to inject players, the Red Sox may have opened themselves up to potential litigation in the future.

The story piggybacks Gordon Edes’ recent ESPNBoston report in which ex-Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon also talks about being shot up with the same drug. None of this is shocking. That teams are doing everything they can to get their injured players back on the field is not a revelatory development. But—and I’m far, far from the first person to point this out—it’s totally ridiculous that somehow, a painkiller that seems practically strong enough to treat a tiger is considered a safe, acceptable treatment option, yet other “performance enhancing” drugs are considered to be the work of the devil.

Hell, in 2011, a group of former players sued the NFL over the use of Toradol. The players, Ken Belson of The New York Times wrote, “contend that the league and its teams failed to warn them of the consequences of taking the drug, a blood thinner, that, according to the suit, ‘can prevent the feeling of injury’ and therefore made it harder for players to recognize when they had concussions.” Then, during a memorable Real Sports segment in early 2012, Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher matter-of-factly explained his relationship with Toradol. “It’s normal,” he said. “You drop your pants, you get the alcohol, they give you a shot, put the Band-Aid on and you go out and play.”

But that’s only in the bloodstained, macho world of pro football, right? Not according to Passan’s report:

Two other sources described the same scene as Schilling: Reinold and a player stashed away in a secluded area, away from the trainers’ room, with Reinold jabbing a needle into a player’s buttocks before a game.

I don’t mean to pick on only the Red Sox. Presumably, this kind of thing is standard practice for other teams, too. That it’s considered “normal” is hypocritical and terrifying.