Bundesliga and Painkillers: Ex-Schalke Doctor Reveals Potential Problem

Painkillers are often associated with the other kind of football, the one with helmets and far more concussions in addition to impact injuries created from players hitting each other at high speeds with plenty of hard padding. However a recent interview with an ex-Schalke team doctor has potentially revealed painkiller usage in the Bundesliga amongst players who are trying to get match fit quicker than medically possible to maintain their position in the starting line-up.

Handelsblatt recently published an interview with Dr. Thorsten Rarreck – who was a team doctor at the famous club for over a decade before being recently replaced – in which the use of painkiller medication in the Bundesliga was put out in the open, perhaps unsurprisingly considering the amount of knocks an average Bundesliga player takes in a given season. An amount of matches building up even if the winter break gives players time to recover, Bayern’s recent injury woes coming to mind when examining just how much a logjam of matches can impact the body.

Rarreck claims that nearly two-thirds of Bundesliga players use some sort of painkiller medication to either train or play in matches, a number that is somewhat large considering how little it is thought about when it comes to the sport and the league.

“[The use of pain mediation] has greatly increased in recent years,” Rarreck revealed to Handelsblatt earlier this month in a lengthy interview on the topic. “There are figures which show that more than two-thirds of the athletes regularly take painkillers in order to train and play.”

“The players run at least two or three kilometers more per match as they did ten or fifteen years ago,” Rarreck offered as an explanation for the use of the painkillers by players and team doctors while offering that international matches may be a root cause of the problem. “They also have up to ten more competitive matches per season.” Those extra kilometers come with a greater physical toll, something the World Cup and international soccer only exacerbate.”

In the interview Rarreck also speculates that in the World Cup the likes of Manuel Neuer, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Phillip Lahm potentially used painkillers to get back onto the pitch after picking up injuries that could have sidelined them during the country’s magical run in Brazil in the summer.

The types of painkiller use by Rarreck claims are all legal under both Bundesliga, FIFA, and UEFA regulations, but the ex-Schalke doctor hopes that something will be done to prevent the use of drugs to allow players to play through injuries that can have affects following their playing careers from continuing to step out onto the pitch despite having injuries that need proper healing time to recover from properly.

“I hope something will be completely banned in three or four years (painkiller usage by team doctors) to protect the players.” Rarreck told the business newspaper while offering that it appears unlikely for now in the Bundesliga that a ban would be placed on using medication to play through injury. In Germany, a case would be unthinkable.”

Painkiller usage still remains a low level issue in the sport as well as in the Bundesliga, as does the issue of concussions and protocol to insure players are not coming back too quickly from head injury. Ivan Klasnic did sue Werder Bremen for kidney problems from the use of painkillers in recent years, but in terms of class action lawsuits and media attention the use of pain numbing medications along with the medical impact of those decisions by both team doctors as well as players hasn’t harmed the image of the Bundesliga nor the sport itself as much as it has in American football. SC Paderborn player Marvin Duksch caused a stir this season, after he confessed to reporters that he had to take a painkiller during the half time intermission. The striker went on saying that he wasn’t sure what the doctor had given him, but “it was a very good pill” Duksch added.

A scandal of longterm affects to players from the sport hasn’t reached the surface such as the NFL to turn the problem into a mainstream focus, but Rarreck’s interview may help continue the push towards change in the Bundesliga and German football as a whole when it comes to using painkillers to push players back onto the pitch too soon. As in all sports, a win at all costs attitude from all sides will likely make the issue one that will be quickly ignored as players want to get back onto the pitch as soon as they are injured just as much as the supporters of the club and the manager. If it requires the use of spray, or legal painkiller medication, the chances are that the average Bundesliga player will take that option to continue on.

Whether or not those in German fussball feel there is a moral problem with that is up for debate, but the ex-Schalke team doctor certainly feels that the problem is significant enough that the majority of Bundesliga players and clubs rely on the use of medication to recover injuries in times that are not humanly possible. With short offseasons and compressed schedules, it may just be a reality of sports that if you want to be able to play nearly every match for your club that you will have to pay a potential medical price to do so.

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