Ray Lucas: The NFL and the Long-Term Effect of Injuries

Paul CatalanoContributor IIFebruary 26, 2011

Ray and his wife
Ray and his wife

On Feb. 8, ESPN's Rich Cimini reported that former National Football League quarterback Ray Lucas was detailing on Facebook, his withdrawal from painkilling drugs. The pain he earned in the NFL.

Lucas hasn't played in the NFL since 2003, but he recently underwent back/neck surgery. He has been in pain every single day since his retirement from the NFL.

It got so bad, Lucas told The Star-Ledger's Amy Brittain, “I couldn’t stand up straight, couldn’t walk up the steps. It was that bad.” So Lucas went to a Doctor Colao, who said that Lucas had a severe testosterone deficiency, likely resulting from his long dependence on pain medications. His prescription, unbeknownst to Lucas, was HGH and steroids. Dr. Colao died a few years back and Lucas said, “I know I’m not in that category where I was trying to get ripped up, because I was a fat pig (300 lbs. at the time)...I was hurt when he passed away. I couldn’t believe it...I was actually supposed to see him two days after that.”

The pain continued. And so did the painkillers. Last September, Lucas, through the help of PAST—Pain Alternatives, Solutions and Treatments—a New Jersey medical group that specializes in helping retired athletes—performed neck surgery on Lucas in September and has been assisting his attempt to conquer addiction. Finally on Feb. 5, Lucas checked into the Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches, a West Palm Beach, Fla., drug rehabilitation center. Since that time, he has been chronicling his journey out of painkiller dependency on Facebook.

Here's a just a few of Ray's Facebook entries:

"I arrived in Fla. Randy tells me not to be nervous but that is impossible. I am in the car on my way to BHOP/Seaside. Nervous about everything, my palms are sweating. This weather will be good for my body. Got a text from my mom she & my family are relieved I am here. I am on my way to start my life over. Can't believe all the FB responses already, it's a good sign and the support is needed.

"The end of day 2 detox. The symptoms of detox are taking hold, I am in a lot of pain and everything hurts. This gets me scared. This place is amazing, having another player, Randy Grimes, who has been through it by my side is a difference maker. Today in a session for the first time in my life I was dealing with the emotional impact of my departure from the NFL. This is the start of the fight and I AM WILLING TO FIGHT!

"Day 3 of detox was filled with a lot of anxiety. I was moved from the detox unit into the Seaside condos to start full days of various therapy sessions, group meetings and other treatment. I am nervous and feeling on edge. I met my therapist, it was a very emotional time a lot of feelings coming to the surface. I am drained.

"Today marks one week since Randy Grimes and Jen Smith brought me to treatment for pain killer dependency due to my NFL injuries and depression. I am hangin in there. The 1st week has been difficult because of my pain. I had no idea how much pain I was in because the amount of medication I was taking. They are helping me with the pain with massage and acupuncture. I have started going to group and I am fighting the good fight.

"A day ago I was packing my s---; wanted to leave. I can't sleep and the pain is getting to me. The lead Doc talked me down and explained that my brain was in a craving mode and the thoughts of leaving were tied to that. It was enlightening and I am feeling better. P.A.S.T/ BHOP brought in another ret. NFL player into the player program Sunday. There are so many of us out there. This place and the program are saving lives.

"I was not at all open to going to AA meetings. I was pissed I had to go. I did not understand. I was not an alcoholic, I was not abusing alcohol I thought this was a waste of time. My wife will tell you that I am as stubborn as a mule. I now go to AA meetings and they are making an impact. This week player only groups led by Randy Grimes will start. All the players here will get together for our own group."


This isn't an essay on the horrors of the violence of football and what it has wrought. It isn't to decry that these athletes don't know what they are getting into. They do. This is just to say that there has to be something the NFL can do to help these guys after their career is over.

I don't have any idea what the NFL is bargaining with the players union regarding this stuff. But Lucas is just one guy, who didn't play very long or very much. There must other guys—tons of other guys—who are in agonizing pain and need help. The NFL should do something about that.

My thanks to Ray Lucas for documenting his personal life and journey through this ordeal. Good luck, Ray.