Dec 8, 2016
Part of the Solution

For years, youth and adolescent student-athletes have been prescribed opioid painkillers following sports injuries. Some experts believe this can pave the way to later opioid addiction, which has reached epidemic levels in many parts of the country. To keep this from happening, adminstrators, athletic trainers, and coaches are taking part in the prevention efforts.

According to an article from, Lynn (Mass.) Public Schools have prepared a message for student-athletes and their parents to address opioid addiction. Coaches and athletic trainers are also being encouraged to keep an open conversation going with student-athletes. 

“Really, this is about creating awareness to this issue,” Michael Geary, Assistant Director of Health and Physical Education for Lynn Public Schools, told the website. “It’s a big push from the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association [MIAA]. It’s a huge push from them in creating awareness of how big of an issue this has been, based on research. A lot of times, teenagers don’t realize how important addiction is. Educating them is an important step.”

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Talking to athletes about medication is one area where coaches and athletic trainers are being asked to focus. They’re also tasked with educating athletes about addiction.

“The big thing is that you have to listen to adults,” Geary said. “We have [athletic] trainers for each team. It shouldn’t be teenagers deciding what to do to take medications. They should be listening to adults in those circumstances … This is about everybody working together to try and educate student-athletes.”

Earlier in the year, the MIAA took steps to change its regulations about substance abuse. The new rule gives student-athletes the chance to get help for an addiction without being penalized, an important precedent if they have begun abusing prescription drugs following an injury.

“The aim is to try and offer assistance to young people to get them diverted,” Michael Morrissey, Norfolk County (Mass.) District Attorney, told Patch. “Because after a while, it can be a very long road back.”

The main idea behind the rule change is to help affected individuals recognize the problem, without cutting them off from participating in sports. The rule officially states that “prior to any chemical health violation, a student’s request for and enrollment in a substance abuse treatment shall not in and of itself constitute a violation of the chemical health/alcohol/drugs/tobacco [r]ule.”

“We want to keep people in school, and sometimes that comes through the camaraderie of a sports team,” Morrissey said. “Why would anyone come forward if they thought they wouldn’t keep playing sports? They wouldn’t.”

Other states are also working to address opioid use in student-athletes. An article from The Register-Herald (Beckley, W.Va.) reports that educational fliers, public service announcements, and events are planned to increase awareness of opioid-abuse risks for West Virginia student-athletes.

“Everyone has a vested interest in the health and safety of our state’s students,” Patrick Morrisey, West Virginia Attorney General, told the paper. “Many people think injuries are the biggest threat student-athletes will face, but reality shows the medicine they’re prescribed after an injury could present another danger.” 

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