SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Former 49ers Pro Bowl center Jeremy Newberry has joined other former football stars Richard Dent, Jim McMahon and Roy Green in filing a class-action lawsuit against the National Football League alleging illegal and rampant misuse of pain-killing medications that led to debilitating injuries and long-term health problems.
The suit was also filed on behalf of "hundreds" of additional former players Tuesday in San Francisco Federal Court.
In a copy of the lawsuit obtained by KPIX 5, the players allege the misuse of pain-killing pills and injections - without a doctor's prescription or explanation of side effects - were necessary to keep players on the field and helped turn the NFL into a billion-dollar empire.
"We have not seen the lawsuit and our attorneys have not had an opportunity to review it," said Brian McCarthy, Vice President of Communications for the National Football League.
According to the lawsuit, "...the NFL has intentionally, recklessly, and negligently developed a culture of drug misuse, substituting players' health for profit." The players seek financial compensation for the long-term chronic injuries, financial losses and long-term health care for future problems they will suffer.
Newberry, who also spent a season with the Oakland Raiders, was a two-time Pro Bowl center for the San Francisco 49ers who played 11 seasons in the NFL, nine in San Francisco. He has also worked as an NFL analyst for KPIX 5 in San Francisco. After years of taking the pain-killing drug Toradol, the 38-year-old Newberry says his kidneys function at 30 percent. He says nobody ever warned him about the long-term consequences of pain killers.
"A lot of times team trainers were giving out drugs, none of them have a medical degree," said Newberry. "Some of them aren't even licensed and they're handing out drugs. They're handing out anti-inflammatory. They're handing out pain killers. They're handing out sleeping pills. They're handing out this stuff all together."
Newberry and the other former players are also seeking changes in the way the NFL distributes pain killing drugs, including Toradol, an anti-inflammatory drug that is most commonly used in emergency rooms and post-operation wards to help patients manage pain. Newberry claims Toradol was taken by "half the team" just before kick-off.
"The Toradol line was crazy," Newberry said. "The general public wouldn't believe. It's almost like a cattle call when you have 20 to 25 guys standing with their pants half down, waiting in line for a doctor who's got a hundred different syringes lined up and you walk through, they're sticking you one at a time, you walk in and out, takes all of a couple seconds, they've got the needles pre-loaded and they're shooting up half the team in some cases."
Newberry said he wanted to be a part of the lawsuit to help promote change in the NFL culture that he says relies too heavily on forcing players to mask pain to play football.
"If I don't voice my opinion, if I don't stand up for what's right, and I know that the drug culture is not right and I know that the way they administer the drugs isn't right and I've got nephews that play football and I've got little guys that are coming up, my son, if he happens to play football, if I don't do something to change this game and it happens to them, shame on me," Newberry said.
The lawsuit is the second in recent years accusing the NFL of medical misconduct. In August of 2013, the league and former players reached a $765 million settlement stemming from a concussion lawsuit. Earlier this year, a U.S. District Judge rejected the initial settlement "fearing the sum may not be enough to cover injured players."
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