CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- The NFL's steroids era appears to have
left a legacy of joint and ligament injuries as well as mental
issues among those using the performance-enhancing drugs, according
to a new survey.
The findings, released Friday and published in the March issue
of the American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, come
from a comprehensive health survey of 2,552 retired NFL players
from the 1940s to the 1990s, conducted by the University of North
Carolina's Center for the Study of Retired Athletes.
The study found that those who used steroids had significantly
higher rates of herniated disks and knee ligament and meniscus
injuries, plus more elbow, foot, ankle and toe problems than those
who said they played steroids-free.
It also found a link between steroids and depression, attention
deficit disorder and increased alcohol consumption.
"Our findings speak to the 'snowball effect' or compounded
medical problems that appear to accompany steroid use," said Kevin
Guskiewicz, a director at UNC's department of exercise and sport
science and a senior author of the study.
Steroids were considered to be most prevalent -- especially among
linemen - in the NFL in the years immediately before the league
began testing in the late 1980s, a belief supported by the study.
In the anonymous survey, 20.3 percent of the players from the
1980s answered yes when asked "During the time in which it was
acceptable to use performance-enhancing steroids, did you use
Of all of the retired players, 9.1 percent answered yes to the
question. Offensive linemen (16.3 percent) and defensive linemen
(14.8 percent) reported the highest proportion of steroids use.