LOS ANGELES (CN) - A former USC football player claims in court that school doctors injected him with so many anti-inflammatory drugs to prevent nonexistent pain that he suffered a heart attack at age 20.
Armond Armstead sued the University of Southern California, Dr. James Tibone, the University Park Health Center, and Doe pharmaceutical company and distributor, in Superior Court.
Armstead claims after he fractured his foot during his sophomore year, team doctor Tibone injected him with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including Toradol - also known as ketorolac.
Armstead claims the drug was not administered to treat a medical condition, but to prevent pain - even though he had no pain complaints at the time.
During his junior year, Armstead says, Tibone diagnosed him with a shoulder injury and administered another series of NSAID injections.
Over the course of that season, Armstead claims, Tibone injected him with pre-game and halftime doses of Toradol.
"The drugs were not administered to treat any medical condition, but for a perceived 'chronic' condition, despite the lack of any physical complaints of pain he was experiencing," Armstead says in the complaint.
"Plaintiff was told to take the shot by his coaches, his trainers and/or by defendant James Tibone M.D. ... Defendants made it clear to [Armstead] that these injections were mandatory."
Armstead says he was injected on at least seven game days: three times twice a day.
After he decided to play his senior year and sit out the NFL draft, he says, he twice went to USC's University Park Health Center after spring football workouts complaining of chest pains. Both times doctors at the health center injected him with 60mg of Toradol, he says.
"On February 23, 2011 [Armstead] returned to defendant University Park Health Center ... complaining of worsening, intermittent chest pain, again after football practice and/or workouts. In response, defendants once again injected plaintiff with 60 mg of Toradol/ketorolac," Armstead says.
He claims that neither the health center nor Dr. Tibone told him that they were injecting him with Toradol, or that anti-inflammatories increase the risk of heart attack or stroke.
"At no time prior to, during or after the administration of these NSAID drugs did defendants University of Southern California, James Tibone M.D., University Park Health Center ... inform [Armstead] that the NSAID drugs he was receiving, including Toradol/ketorolac required a prescription, nor did any defendant ever issue a prescription for the use of said drugs to plaintiff's knowledge. At no time prior to, during or after the administration of these NSAID drugs did defendants ... provide plaintiff with any document, insert, flyer or label that contained information, warnings or advisements about Toradol/ketorolac or any other NSAID drug he was receiving. At no time did [Armstead] give his informed consent or permission for the administration of these drugs," Armstead states in his complaint.
"Defendants University of Southern California and/or James Tibone M.D. ... administered the NSAID medications, including without limitation the Toradol/ketorolac administered to plaintiff in a quantity and frequency that exceeded maximum dosage guidelines, recommendations and restrictions established by defendant Doe Pharmaceutical Company and Does 11 through 20, and each of them, and approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration and did so without issuing a prescription for their use as required by the manufacturer and the FDA," Armstead says.
Armstead claims that USC football team members were regularly injected with NSAIDs "in a quantity and frequency that exceeded maximum dosage guidelines ... and without the issuance of a prescription."
He claims team doctors should have known that Toradol is restricted to short-term treatment of acute pain and not for pain management, and that using the drug for long periods of time exposed him to increased risk of cardiovascular harm.
"On or about March 3, 2011 USC University Hospital determined that [Armstead] had suffered an acute anterior apical myocardial infarction. Because University of Southern California, James Tibone M.D., University Park Health Center ... failed to properly recognize, appreciate, evaluate, diagnose or treat plaintiff's repeated complaints of chest pain commencing in early February, 2011, it is difficult to establish the actual date that the myocardial infarction occurred. This cardiac event ultimately led to plaintiff's hospitalization and treatment at USC University Hospital. The administration of NSAID drugs ... were a substantial factor in causing the myocardial infarction," Armstead says in his complaint.
Armstead claims USC team doctors failed to disclose to cardiac specialists their overuse of Toradol injections.
"This failure to share critical medical information among plaintiff's designated treaters persisted despite the fact that [Armstead] was frequently, if not always, accompanied to medical consultations in the aftermath of the myocardial infarction by a trainer, coach or other representative of the USC Trojans football team," Armstead says in his complaint.
As a result, Armstead says, he was subjected to "humiliating and highly personal questions implying that, because no other explanation was available, plaintiff must have engaged in the use of recreational or other prohibited drugs or substances prior to" the heart attack, which he says raised "a cloud of suspicion regarding plaintiff's background."
"In response to media inquiries defendant University of Southern California ... characterized plaintiff's medical condition as an 'undisclosed' or 'undiagnosed' medical condition without explanation. [USC] persisted in this characterization throughout the 2011 football season of what would have been plaintiff's senior year of play," Armstead says in his complaint.
He claims USC prohibited him from playing football that year, blocked his attempts to transfer eligibility to another college, kept him from participating in "Pro Day" at the school before the 2012 NFL draft, and ruined his chances of being picked as a late-round or free agent draft pick.
"During the 2012 NFL draft process, [Armstead] was invited to visit a number of professional teams for the purpose of considering him as a draft prospect or potential free agent. Plaintiff is informed and believes and on such information and belief alleges that when these teams made inquiries regarding plaintiff's heretofore undisclosed medical condition, [USC and Dr. Tibone] communicated that plaintiff should not be considered as a 'safe' draft prospect. Plaintiff is informed and believes and on such information and belief alleges that as a result of these disclosures and communications, numerous invitations that had previously been extended to plaintiff by various NFL teams to attend their respective training camps were withdrawn, and plaintiff was denied the opportunity to try out for any NFL franchise team," Armstead claims.
Armstead claims that the USC Trojans' football success - $29 million in profit during the 2011 season alone, despite serving a 4-year probation for NCAA violations - is built on the use of Toradol and other NSAIDs to mask players' pain and chronic conditions.
USC has "a strong financial incentive to engage in the use of Toradol/ketorolac to keep players, especially high achieving athletes like [Armstead], on the field and playing, even when they were injured and/or recovering from injuries," and despite the cardiovascular risks to players like Armstead, according to his complaint.
Armstead seeks damages from USC and Tibone for fraud through intentional and negligent misrepresentation, concealment, and intentional and negligent interference with prospective economic relations; from USC, Tibone, Doe Pharmaceutical Company and Doe Distributor for negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, strict product liability and failure to warn; from Tibone and University Park Health Center for medical negligence; and from Tibone for battery.
He is represented by Roger Dreyer with Dreyer Babich of Sacramento.