San Jose State football program uses risky painkiller

SAN JOSE, Calif.

Toradol is a painkiller commonly used on a number of athletes in different sports, but the investigation by ABC News began after a college football player suffered a heart attack.

Two years ago, former USC football player Armond Armstead suffered a heart attack. He was 20 at the time. Armstead is now suing the university for giving him several shots of toradol.

Armstead's attorney says his client was injected repeatedly for pain in his ankle.

"They'd inject him before the game started, they would then check with him at half time and bring him back in and they could see he was having a problem and they'd inject him again," Armstead's attorney Roger Dreyer said.

ABC News surveyed 25 colleges. Some of them denied using the drug. Other universities like USC, Clemson, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Nebraska and San Jose State reported giving their players Toradol.

"College football team doctors across the country are using this painkiller so that injured players can get on the field and play for their team and help them win," said ABC News investigative reporter Brian Ross.

The manufacturer's warning label specifically says the drug is not intended for prolonged periods -- otherwise a patient may suffer a fatal heart attack, stroke or organ failure. But Armstead's attorney says team doctors never told him about these risks.

"At no point in time did they ever explain to him here's what we are injecting you with, this is the name of the drug, these are the risks of the drug," Dreyer said.

Dr. Clem Jones is an orthopedic spinal surgeon who is very familiar with toradol. "All of the anti-inflammatory medications are known to have an increased risk of thrombotic events, meaning that your blood clots easily. That can cause you to have a heart attack or a stroke," he said.

But some are concerned that the NCAA has no kind of requirement to regulate or even track the use of this painkiller.

In a statement, San Jose State University said: "Our student athletes receive excellent medical care, advice and treatment by highly skilled and knowledgeable doctors who put the student athlete's well-being as the top priority."

Ross also contacted Stanford which just won the Rose Bowl.

Watch full reports on this story tonight on Nightline at 11:35 p.m.

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