Former player Ryan Kesler says there's lack of education across NHL in risks of pain medications

Former NHL player Ryan Kesler said the lack of education about a popular anti-inflammatory medication led to his chronic digestive problems, which he revealed on a Canadian sports documentary.

Kesler and other former NHL players spoke out about overuse of medications like toradol, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, on a TSN news segment called "The Problem of Pain," which debuts Tuesday night.

Kesler, who played 1,001 games for the Vancouver Canucks and Anaheim Ducks, hasn't played in the NHL since March 2019 because of chronic hip problems. To manage the pain, he said he would frequently take toradol, a drug not approved for long-term use. "I never wanted to hurt the team, so I knew I had to play. To play, you have to take painkillers," he said.

In 2015, Kesler said he developed colitis, a chronic disease that causes long-lasting inflammation and ulcers in the digestive tract. Doctors told him the condition was most likely triggered by the toradol abuse.

"I had holes in my colon and ulcers, and basically my whole intestines went into spasm. It's very unpleasant. You've gotta go to the bathroom 30-40 times a day. And when you do go to the bathroom, it's pure blood. It depletes you. It's terrible. And it's all because I wasn't made aware of what this drug could potentially do to me," he said.

In fall 2019, Kesler was diagnosed with Crohn's disease, an inflammatory bowel disease.

Kesler said NHL teams have not educated their players about the risks of pain medications. "I never knew what it could do to me. Or the side effects. I feel like if I can talk about the dangers about it, it'll help everybody," he said.

TSN's Rick Westhead, who created "The Problem of Pain" with producer Matt Cade, said that overuse of toradol is widespread in the NHL, with multiple agents telling him they have players "who take it before every regular-season and playoff game" to manage their pain.

"A lot of this, in terms of accountability and responsibly, comes down to team trainers and team doctors," Westhead said. "If you believe what these players are telling us, how can it be that they're being given prescription medication that you're not supposed to take more than five days in a row for a full season and not telling them what could happen if you do this?"