I’ve written about the abuse of prescription pills in pro hockey in the past, specifically about how their distribution needs to be better monitored. Right now if players want them, they can get them, and with the pain of the game and the rigors of travel, plenty of guys do. Never have I been more sure that something has to be done then after reading what Derek Boogaard’s father discovered about what had been prescribed to his son over the years.
Before I list the numbers, a simple point: it’s not solely the doctor’s responsibility to monitor the amount of pills players are swallowing - players have to be accountable for themselves as well. Though some guys are (as Boogaard seemed to be), not everyone is a victim of the system.
There’s just no way it should be possible for one person to acquire this many drugs from this many sources:
Derek Boogaard received more than 100 prescriptions for thousands of pills from more than a dozen team doctors for the Minnesota Wild and the Rangers.
* In a six-month stretch from October 2008 to April 2009, while playing 51 games, Boogaard received at least 25 prescriptions for the painkillers hydrocodone or oxycodone, a total of 622 pills, from 10 doctors — eight team doctors of the Wild, an oral surgeon in Minneapolis and a doctor for another N.H.L. team.
* In the fall of 2010, an official for the Rangers, Boogaard’s new team, was notified of Boogaard’s recurring abuse of narcotic pain pills. Nonetheless, a Rangers team dentist soon wrote the first of five prescriptions for hydrocodone for Boogaard after he sustained an injury.
* Another Rangers doctor, although aware that Boogaard also had been addicted to sleeping pills in the past, wrote nearly 10 prescriptions for Ambien during Boogaard’s lone season with the team.
What blows me away more than anything about those numbers is the ”10 doctors in six months” part. I’ve played on teams with a team doctor. I’ve seen 2-3 in certain training rooms. I know there are some specialists you deal with over the course of a career. But 10 and these people don’t communicate at all about what’s being prescribed to their patient, a guy who’s supposed to be a pro athlete, a finely tuned machine? It’s an absolute sin. (None of that addresses the blatant disregard for a guy with a problem, but I’m not looking at Boogaard’s situation as a stand-alone event here.)
Shady doctors aren’t everywhere in pro hockey, but they exist. I’ve heard of guys texting their team doctor, who would in turn call in a prescription and have pills ready to go for them at CVS in an hour. “What do you need, sleeping pills, pain pills, muscle relaxers….would you like fries with that?” As in all lines of work, some folks are just ethically questionable, and they always will be – being smart enough to become a doctor has little bearing on that. That fact is precisely why there needs to be some sort of official system in place so those people don’t go messing everything up for the rest of us.
For one, necessary prescribed pills could be doled out to players out on a daily basis at the rink. The doctors write the scripts, fill them, bring them to your dressing room, and say “Here’s your three for the day.” For another, if you’re going to have 1000 doctors, each player should have medical files on hand that doctors need to update every time they prescribe anything so they could see “Hey look, Dr. Percy prescribed him 30 pills yesterday, he doesn’t need any more.”
I realize these ideas aren’t flawless (as I said, guys may get them regardless, but let’s at least make it more difficult), but they’re ideas. We need to get moving in the right direction.
Boogaard’s story is terrible and sad, but if it could be the catalyst for some positive change that exposes less players to ridiculous amounts of pills that they don’t need, then at least it could have been for something. Though that may be small consolation for the Boogaard family, maybe it could save another family from feeling the same pain.
If we do nothing, the problem isn’t going to go away on it’s own, it’s only going to get worse. R.I.P., Boogeyman.