A youth sports event supported this week by Sierra Tucson leveraged the hype of Super Bowl week in Arizona and the addiction treatment facility's expertise in treating complex issues by communicating to youths and the adults in their lives about football's risks and rewards.
The P.A.S.T. Retired Athletes Medical Resource Group sponsored the Jan. 27 event featuring four former National Football League (NFL) athletes. P.A.S.T., an independent medical organization that assists retired athletes who are struggling with the post-retirement effects of on-field injuries and related concerns such as substance abuse and pain management, has an exclusive arrangement with Sierra Tucson to offer treatment to the players in its program.
Lisa Jane Vargas, Sierra Tucson's director of marketing, says the CRC Health Group facility established a relationship with P.A.S.T. about a year ago through the efforts of the facility's New Jersey-based outreach specialist. That initially led to the placement of a former NFL player in Sierra Tucson's pain program. “Our doors have always been open to professional athletes,” says Vargas.
Susan Menzie, Sierra Tucson's director of patient care services, adds that athletes enrolled in the organization's treatment programs are fully integrated with the entire patient population. Their treatment does not occur along an isolated track.
This week's awareness event in the community of Surprise attracted coaches, parents, and children from many grade levels. Four former NFL players attended, including former New York Jet, New England Patriot and Miami Dolphin quarterback Ray Lucas, who Vargas says spoke honestly about past substance abuse issues and who now works as a peer counselor. Several participants talked about the game's history of having its players rely heavily on substances to withstand pain and be able to stay on the field.
The overall message was not one of blaming the system for the dangers that football players experience, or conveying that the sport is too risky for young people—Vargas says each of the participants confirmed that they would allow a son to play football. Instead, the event communicated that players, parents and coaches need to educate themselves about risks and take the proper steps when an injury occurs.
The event also featured a screening of the documentary “The United States of Football,” in which nationally prominent athletes and members of the media discuss how the game can maintain its integrity and protect players.
For Menzie, whose father played college football and has endured several joint replacement surgeries in later life, the messages in the event hit close to home. “I liked hearing the pieces from the family members and how this affects families,” she says.