Updated: June 24, 2014 7:46AM
Former Bears offensive lineman Keith Van Horne was dealing with a broken leg for five years and didn’t know about it. Team doctors told him he was just dealing with a bad contusion.
“Let’s make it clear, we’re not suing the Chicago Bears,” Van Horne said during an interview on WSCR-AM 670 on Wednesday. “We’re suing the NFL.”
On Tuesday, Van Horne became one of eight named plaintiffs — which included fellow 1985 Bears Jim McMahon and Richard Dent — in a class-action lawsuit by former players.
The lawsuit alleges that the NFL put profits ahead of players’ health when teams administered powerful painkilling drugs without prescriptions or detailing the long-term effects of taking or mixing the drugs. The lawsuit covers the years 1968-2008.
In the radio interview, Van Horne said he’s just “mad at the system” that existed years ago when players had easy access to drugs, narcotics and opiates and wants a better monitoring system.
“They were provided to us from our trainer,” Van Horne told the “Mac & Spiegs” show. “You weren’t handed a prescription and went to Walgreens to fill these things given out. They were given to you by a trainer in a little manila envelope with his handwriting, ‘Take one of these twice a day’ or whatever direction it would be. And that’s how the drugs were given.
“Whatever they needed you to take in order to be able to get on the field to play, you were going to be taking. There wasn’t any discussion about any long-term effects.”
Van Horne, who played for the Bears from 1981 to 1993, said he broke his leg when he was leg-whipped during a road game against 49ers. A specialized boot and ample doses of drugs allowed him to play.
Van Horne said he learned of the break five years later when he saw a doctor about a different injury.
“[The drugs] were readily available,” he said. “You are trusting these guys to take care of you and that they have your best interests at heart because that’s what you’re led to believe.”
Six of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, including Van Horne, were included in the concussion-related class-action lawsuit against the NFL less than a year ago.
“The difference is that the concussion case claimed the NFL knew or should have known,” lead attorney Steven Silverman said. “We’re saying this was intentional, putting profits ahead of players’ health — and in violation of federal controlled substance laws, as well as state laws. You don’t order hundreds of narcotic painkillers in their names without telling them.”
Sun-Times staff, AP