U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) visited Portsmouth High School on Monday, May 15th to discuss her new legislation, the Student and Student Athlete Opioid Misuse Prevention Act. The bill is aimed at ending opioid misuse among young students and student athletes through education and prevention programs.
Shaheen welcomed PHS athletes from the lacrosse, tennis, baseball and softball teams to discuss the dangers of opioid abuse. Joining her in a discussion panel were Devin Rowe of the Partnership for a Drug Free NH; Marty Scarano, UNH Athletic Director; Donna Arias of the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association (NHIAA); Jeff Hatch, retired NFL football player and Dr. Joshua Siegel, Sports Medicine Director at Access Sports Medicine & Orthopaedics.
As the only medical professional on the panel, Dr. Siegel recalled the problems he sees first hand when it comes to prescribing and managing opioids in the medical community. He spoke about the orthopaedic patients he often sees that come to him after first visiting an emergency facility that doesn’t specialize in the musculoskeletal injuries that he sees every day.
“I had a patient who visited an emergency room for a swollen ankle and was given a week’s worth of Vicodin, told to make an appointment with an orthopaedic surgeon and was sent on their way,” Dr. Siegel said. “So now, for that whole week, the patient had a first taste of opioids. And there are certain populations of people that only need that first taste to become addicted. But they don’t really even need that first taste – this is where a lot of those problems start.”
And since athletes are susceptible to sports injuries, Shaheen wants to make sure that the necessary prevention efforts are in place. Her bill is the first legislative effort of its kind to primarily engage the athletic community, and would authorize $10 million for creating drug prevention programs designed specifically for students and student athletes.
“Sports teams play an incredibly influential role in the lives of millions of young people across the country and it’s critical that we partner with the athletic community – including coaches, athletic trainers, and athletic directors – in this fight to prevent substance misuse,” said Shaheen.
But combating the opioid epidemic won’t end there. According to Dr. Siegel, the medical community also needs to do its part.
“Doctors have been trained not to let their patients be in pain, so doctors have to change their attitudes too,” Dr. Siegel said.
“There’s a lot of education going on in the medical community, but a big gap is educating the people who are initially seeing the injured athlete.” For student athletes, the first responders to injuries are often athletic trainers and coaches.
Siegel said it’s important for the public to understand that, when it comes to pain management after surgery or a significant injury,
opioids aren’t always necessary.
“There are a lot of ways to treat pain that don’t involve any medications,” said Dr. Siegel. These treatments can include yoga, meditation, virtual reality and other opioid alternatives.
The doctors and staff at Access Sports Medicine are committed to doing their part to fight the opioid epidemic. For more information about opioid alternatives, please contact one of our offices.