Football

Former Player Alleges NFL Doctors Covered Up His Injuries

Fred Taylor is the latest retired NFL player to make this allegation against the league

Football
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Sep 01, 2016 at 12:27 PM ET

Fred Taylor, a now-retired running back who spent 13 seasons in the NFL, took to Twitter Wednesday to accuse team doctors of keeping the injuries he suffered over the course of his playing career a secret.

Taylor went on to claim that because of the failings of so-called “neutral” doctors, he has been unable to receive what’s called “Line of Duty” benefits, a benefits package that is provided to those that suffer from “substantial disablement arising out of NFL football activities,” despite multiple efforts to plead his case.

Taylor’s difficulty making it through a full season earned him the nickname “Fragile Freddy,” yet he still managed to rack up 11,695 yards, 16th best in NFL history, and scored 66 touchdowns after being drafted ninth overall in 1998. According to Taylor, he’s far from deserving of the Fragile Freddy moniker.

When fans began questioning why he felt the need to make this information public, harrumphing that he “knew what he signed up for” and suggesting that the millions he received rendered any complaints he might have null and void, Taylor denied that he was seeking any extra attention. Instead, Taylor said, he was pointing out the harsh realities and conflicts of interest that still remain within the official NFL medical community.

VICE Sports’ Patrick Hruby replied that he’d heard similar versions of Taylor’s story from a slew of NFL veterans. In response, Taylor, said, “This is true. We understand what we sign up for, minus the lies and manipulation.”

Sad to say, Hruby’s right. Taylor is far from the first former NFL player to allege that the first priority for team doctors is not to provide the best possible care, but rather to ensure that an athlete can perform on the field, regardless of the long-term negative impacts.

Kyle Turley has struggled with multiple symptoms common to those dealing with traumatic brain injuries, plus the side effects of the drugs he was taking to combat them, but when filed for disability benefits, he found himself ensnarled in the league’s bureaucratic sinkhole.

At SB Nation, Louis Bien outlined the struggles of players suffering from ongoing addiction to Toradol, a painkiller that was handed out to players like Tic Tacs. For Errict Rhett, a running back who spent seven seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Baltimore Ravens, and Cleveland Browns, when he began to have serious doubts about the diagnoses he received, he turned to a doctor with an opposing team to get a second opinion. That didn’t sit well with the Browns.

“The doctor comes in and says, ‘Errict, hey man, I didn’t know that we weren’t supposed to do the surgery, I didn’t know you were just here on a second opinion,'” Rhett said. “‘I thought that we were here to take care of you. The Cleveland Browns just cussed us out.'”

Nate Jackson, the now-retired wide receiver and tight end and author of “Slow Getting Up: A Story of NFL Survival from the Bottom of the Pile,” describes the struggle to learn the severity of the injuries he’s incurred. Including being told that getting a peek at his medical records will increase his risk of getting jettisoned from the team and would cause him to be seen as a “troublemaker.”

And that’s before we even get to the groan-inducing, credulous insistence by Roger Goodell et al. that the “science isn’t settled” when it comes to the connection between playing football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Fun fact: Elliott Pelman, the credential-fibbing rheumatologist and noted graduate of the Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara, spent decades manning the league’s Mild Traumatic Brain Injury committee despite his utter lack of qualifications regarding traumatic brain injuries. Further, he still managed to hang around in a remora-like capacity to hump whatever junk science the NFL required until July of this year. Good stuff.