Euro stars keep taking the tablets
Drug taking, specifically painkillers, has been a hot topic recently and, I can assure you, most of the players at Euro 2012 will be taking tablets on a daily basis to get through training and games.
The majority of drugs taken by players are painkillers and anti-inflammatories. This is in order to mask the symptoms of minor aches and pains that they have picked up and enable them to get through the next all-important match just a few days later. But this process is abused.
It is clear that players are willing to take any mild risk from side effects if it enables them to play in the next game. Who knows? It may be their last! But the medical staff not only have a responsibility to the team to get the player fit but also a responsibility to the player not to put their long-term health at risk.
Many players do not realise the possible long-term effects of taking these drugs, like anti-inflammatories, which can carry side effects affecting the stomach and liver. Players even take other drugs as well to counter the side effects. I wouldn’t mind if players were educated about the risks of taking these commonplace tablets regularly but I rarely see this practice.
Physios are in a difficult situation as they have no formal training in administering medications. They should do so only under the agreement and guidance of a doctor and many clubs do not have doctors available every day. This process is often abused and physios take their own initiative when to give them out, with little understanding of the implications.
Other drugs that are commonly used when preparing players for the next “Cup Final” game are painkilling injections. These are usually used for specific areas, such as a part of the ankle or toe and for minor ligament injuries where the ligament is stable but still slightly painful – as in a medial knee ligament injury.
They work only for an hour or so and then wear off. The decision to inject is based on how severe the injury is, how long it will last, will it make the player worse for the next game after that and will an injection help at all? Some injuries such as muscle injuries cannot be injected. The substance just disappears in such a structure due to the blood supply and is useless, lasting a few minutes if at all.
One concern from a club physio’s perspective is the willingness of international medical staff to “push” players through the next game and not have a lot of concern of the potential long-term risk to the player. It’s the club’s medical team that has to pick up the pieces!
Some players don’t need any tablets at all, anyway. They have been so used to taking regular tablets at their clubs that the tablets have very little effect and they don’t want to change their routine. Sometimes, players are given a tablet that, unknown to them, has no biochemical effect – ie. a placebo – and they are none the wiser. In fact, they seem very happy, especially if it’s been sold to them as a different, more effective drug.
This overuse of medication is commonplace in football and other professional sports. In many cases, these are drugs that are relatively mild and can be bought over the counter, but they are still overused with no monitoring being carried out. Medical staff should take more responsibility … so should the player.