“It masks pain from head to toe.” And, Andrea Kremer continues, “It’s a part of the game that the public’s not really supposed to see.” “It” is Toradol and the game is football, together the focus of the lead story on the latest Real Sports, premiering on HBO 24 January. As Kremer’s disturbing report reveals, this non-narcotic “wonder drug” has been used by players for years, but it’s only recently—in part because of a lawsuit brought by an increasing number of former players against the NFL, alleging a conspiracy to conceal information about concussions. The suit includes language pointing to the blood-thinning effects of Toradol as one of the exacerbating elements in some concussions. These are also associated with other consequences, according to Real Sports’ interviews with former team doctors and other experts, including gastro intestinal bleeding and liver and kidney disease. When Kremer reveals this information to the Chicago Bears’ Brian Urlacher, he sounds surprised, but he insists he’ll continue to take Toradol. “We love football,” he explains. “We want to be on the football field as much as possible.” When an NFL rep suggests that he sees her report as an “opportunity” for players and fans to “get this information,” she makes exactly the right point: “But they’re getting it through us, they’re not getting it through you.”
This is why we love Real Sports, always a smart show that shines useful light on both under-reported and over-mediated issues in sports and sports cultures. This episode includes segments on the Van Gundy brothers, Jeff (former coach, current ESPN analyst, and Justin Beiber fan) and Orlando Magic coach Stan (under a series of illustrative photos, Bernie Goldberg offers a list of Stan’s most memorable expressions, ending with “the ever-popular somebody-shoot-me-and-take-me-out-of-my-misery face”) and Barret Rollins, the former Raiders center whose bipolar disorder went untreated while he was playing, and who is now serving a five-year sentence for 2005 parole violation. As always, Real Sports treats each subject with intelligence and respect—and in the case of Jeff van Gundy, appropriate wit.