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Athletes take painkillers before games to stay competitive, please coaches

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Art by Kiara Tavikoli

With professional athlete alumni like Davante Adams, Joc Pederson and Jeremy Lin, Paly student athletes can have a lot to live up to. And as these athletes push themselves, some say they turn to painkillers to lift their game to the next level and help them chase their aspirations. However, these illegally bought painkillers can actually aggravate injuries and even lead to addiction. 

Athletic Director Jennifer Crane said she thinks athletes might take these painkillers because they love competing and look only at the short-term benefits. 

“They can do something that they love,” Crane said. “It brings them satisfaction, and maybe they’re not even thinking about the long-term effects because it’s just in that moment, ‘I want to play this game, and this is how I’m going to get there.’”

A junior on the boys volleyball team who agreed to be interviewed only if his name wasn’t used because what he is doing is illegal said painkillers also help him with the mental aspect of his sport because the painkillers block pain signals from reaching the brain and numb him to his injuries.

“It stops me from feeling the pain when it happens, so I can continue playing at the moment,” he said. “(It’s) also kind of a placebo so I know I can play better.”

Crane said sometimes student athletes also fear their coach will cut them if they are injured, causing them stress that they will not be able to play, which can lead to the use of painkillers as well.

“Athletes really value their coaches and their coaches’ opinions, so there’s always some kind of added stressor in those kinds of situations.” Crane said. “You can have a coach that’s super understanding, and the athletes can still have some kind of pressure or need to fulfill their role for their coach and their teammates.”

And, a junior who used to play tennis said they think athletes taking painkillers is a disadvantage to athletes who don’t. This person, who agreed to be interviewed only if their name weren’t used because of fear of repercussions, said they were cut from the their tennis team due to injury. 

“If I had pushed through my injury (with painkillers), I think I would have definitely made the team,” the junior said.

The anonymous junior said that when they told the coach they had gotten injured during tryouts, they were instantly sent home without any chance of making the team.

“After I did get the injury, one, I performed a lot worse, and two, when I told the coach, he just told me to go home,” the student said.

Regardless of the justification an athlete uses, Crane said they need to know that, depending on how often an athlete takes pain killers, there will be long-term effects.

“In order to heal, we need time, and we need rest,” Crane said. “When we just kill the pain with a painkiller in that moment, we’re not allowing our body the time it needs to recover and rest, so that injury might get worse.”

 

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