Mike Ditka tends to speak up on issues; we reported his dissatisfaction concerning the NFL's poor handling of gridiron health issues. Ditka and wounded NFL vets claim the NFL drags feet when it comes to taking care of football-related injuries and disabilities of aged NFL veterans. Ditka found new allies in tough talking doctors with serious charges about the NFL and the NFL Players Association. The docs say PEDs will make the entire demeaning situation worse over the upcoming years. To the New York Daily News.
...Simpson (is) an obesity expert who has a stake in the physician-owned Surgical Specialty Hospital of Arizona. "I saw guys who couldn't walk and guys who could barely walk, and I thought it was disgraceful how these guys have been abandoned by the NFL and the Players Association."
Simpson (who met Ditka at a Gridiron Great's function)and officials from OAA Orthopedic Specialists in Allentown, Pa., will be in Chicago on Tuesday to announce they are teaming up with Gridiron Greats to offer free health care - including spine surgery, joint replacement, pain management, obesity counseling and physical therapy - to the ailing and financially strapped ex-players.
Gridiron Greats will screen players for financial need, and then refer qualifying retirees to the Allentown and Phoenix facilities. Executive director Jennifer Smith hopes hospitals and medical groups near other NFL cities will offer their services, too.
Mike Ditka ain't happy. EX-Dolphin Mercury Morris ain't so pleased himself:
"If I were the NFL, I'd be embarrassed," says former Dolphins running back Mercury Morris, who will take advantage of the program to determine if he needs surgery for wrist and knee injuries. "Why does it fall on these hospitals to provide the care the NFL and the union should be providing?"
Dr. Simpson implicates NFL team physicians in this mess; he's talking malpractice here:
Simpson wants to change the way the NFL looks at medicine: Team doctors, he says, are more worried about getting hurt players back on the field than treating injuries.
"Doctors that put players on the field that don't belong there, that's malpractice," Simpson says. "Doctors who shoot up players with cortisone and xylocaine so they can play, that's malpractice. We will report that to boards of medical examiners. There are clearly patterns of abuse here."
As for the steroid & PED business:
Simpson says he expects the number of NFL disabled to skyrocket in the near future because of performance-enhancing drugs.
"Steroids contribute to the overall injury patterns," he says. "You don't see as many injuries in older players as you do younger ones. We suspect there is a steroid component to that. People don't understand the impact these drugs can have long-term."
(more after the jump)
The NFLPA stands accused of feet dragging in spending some money for the disabled players. If bad publicity isn't enough, Congress will be involved later. Perhaps the old players can find some redress and some repair:
Former players have complained for years that the disability system run by the NFL and the NFL Players Association is set up to stonewall players debilitated by injuries suffered during their careers. Retirees complain about lengthy delays and a callous bureaucracy. Phone calls are not returned, they say, and claims are denied for seemingly arbitrary reasons.
"We've been talking about these problems for 60 years and nobody in the NFL or the Players Association has had the vision to do what Gridiron Greats is doing," says Ditka, a member of the organization's board of directors. "We're not trying to embarrass anybody, but there are a lot of people willing to help. Why isn't the NFL or the Players Association doing this?"
Lawmakers will ask that question and others later this year, when Congress holds its third hearing in two years on the NFL's disability plan.