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Steelers doctor cited in prescription drug dustup

Joe Rutter
| Friday, March 10, 2017, 7:06 p.m.
Dr. Anthony Yates, UPMC Steeler team internist addresses the media about Steeler quaterback Tommy Maddox's condition during a press conference at the UPMC Sports Training Center Monday, November 18, 2002.  Tribune - Review
staff photographer
Dr. Anthony Yates, UPMC Steeler team internist addresses the media about Steeler quaterback Tommy Maddox's condition during a press conference at the UPMC Sports Training Center Monday, November 18, 2002. Tribune - Review
Dr. Anthony Yates leaves the field with Steelers tight end Heath Miller after sustaining a concussion during the third quarter against the Ravens Sunday December 5, 2010 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)
Christopher Horner
Dr. Anthony Yates leaves the field with Steelers tight end Heath Miller after sustaining a concussion during the third quarter against the Ravens Sunday December 5, 2010 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)

A lawsuit filed by former players against the 32 NFL teams claiming they violated federal laws governing prescription drugs include several references to Steelers team physician Dr. Anthony Yates.

The Steelers denied comment Friday about the lawsuit and contents of the court documents, which were obtained and published by the Washington Post and Deadspin.com.

The documents allege Yates, also the director of UPMC's Executive Health Program, was part of an NFL-backed task force instructed to study the use of Toradol, which is considered an NSAID, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug.

The lawsuit contends NFL teams ignored federal statutes while prescribing high amounts of painkillers to players.

The documents include testimony from team and NFL medical personnel and describe team officials being made aware of abuses, plus record-keeping problems.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told the Washington Post items in the court filing “are meritless and the league and its clubs will continue to vigorously defend these claims.”

According to documents, Yates testified “a majority of teams as of 2010 had trainers controlling and handling prescription medications and controlled substances when they should not have.”

Yates also testified as late as last season, Steelers players “lined up for the T-Train” — Toradol injections before a game — a practice that had been occurring for “the past 15 years.”

The documents also state in 2012, the Steelers medical staff prescribed 7,442 doses of NSAIDS compared to the league average of 5,777.

The Steelers also prescribed 2,123 controlled doses compared to the league average of 2,270.

According to a March 2013 letter from NFL medical adviser Lawrence Brown, the Steelers ranked 10th in the volume of NSAIDS prescribed and 14th in controlled substances.

Among the plaintiffs in the lawsuit are four former Steelers players: Troy Sadowski, Jeff Graham, Glenn Edwards and Marv Kellum.

Sadowski, who played for the Steelers in the 1997-98 seasons, said he received “enormous quantities of pain-numbing and anti-inflammatory medications.”

He also contends he received Toradol injections before every game and said syringes would be “lined up in the locker room with players' numbers, not their names, on them.”

Graham, a wide receiver with the Steelers from 1991-93, said he received “enormous quantities” of Naproxen, Vicodin, Indocin, Medrol, Celebrex, Darvocet, Tylonel-Codeine No. 3 and Erythromycin.

Edwards was a defensive back with the Steelers from 1971-78. He said he received Novocain and other anti-inflammatory drugs.

Kellum played for the Steelers from 1974-76 and said he received anti-inflammatory drugs in a paper cup from the team trainer and physicians.

Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jrutter@tribweb.com or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.

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