FAITHFUL FAN | Last month's lawsuit validates QB Franklin's move

A story that surfaced in the past two college football seasons involved University of Missouri quarterback James Franklin's recovery from shoulder injuries.

The nimble runner and accurate passer missed games in both the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Several media reports that delved into the injury also noted a newsworthy and unique angle -- Franklin had chosen not to take numbing pain killers to enable him to return to the playing field sooner than he would have while waiting for his injuries to heal naturally.

In 2012, for example, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Franklin declined a cortisone shot that might have allowed him to play against Arizona State. Franklin had reported the pain as a nine on a scale of 10, and the decision was made about 10 minutes before kickoff to go with backup Corbin Berkstresser.

Franklin's father was sought out by a Post columnist and noted how some players have difficulty enjoying their families after their playing days are over because of the toll the experience of playing while injured takes on their bodies.

Franklin told reporters that he related his decision to avoid painkillers to earlier decisions in his life to avoid alcohol and cursing.

Many in the media, including Frank Schwab of Yahoo Sports and Ben Kercheval of nbcsports.com, supported Franklin's decision to wait until the pain subsided before playing. But a long list of fans and observers were quick to jump on Franklin as being "soft" or uncaring about his team.

Letters to the editor, calls on radio talk shows and Internet chatter chastised Franklin for refusing to take the pain medicine and even questioned his courage and toughness. Some cited a preference for players who would have to be carried off the field before they stopped playing.

Now, many months later, do they ever look foolish.

Last month a lawsuit was filed in a San Francisco district court on behalf of eight former National Football League players seeking class-action status.

According to the lawsuit, the league illegally gave players narcotics to mask pain and allow those players to return to games when they should not have. The suit alleges that the NFL was administering illegal drugs, without prescriptions, and with no warnings of side effects. Instead of telling players of broken bones and other serious injuries, it is alleged that teams knowingly hid major injuries. Several players claim that they retired from the NFL addicted to painkillers.

Players allege that the practice has resulted years later in heart, lung and nerve dysfunction, kidney and liver failure, muscle and bone disfigurement in addition to substance abuse and addiction.

As fans, we should take players at their word when they say they cannot play due to an injury. Coaches and team officials must keep the players' welfare at the forefront. Sometimes that may mean making a player sit out for the player's own good, even when that player insists on playing.

So let's belatedly give Franklin a big hand and point out his courage and toughness in turning aside the painkillers. Let's hope his example will become the norm instead of the unusual. Team loyalties are one thing, but there is no excuse for ignoring the best interests of a player.

Kenny is a staff writer for the Review and a member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Oakville.

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