In a video released to New Jersey high school students on Friday, a U.S. women’s national soccer team legend and a starting wide receiver for the New York Jets team up to deliver a powerful warning about the risks associated with sports injuries and opioid use.
The 6-minute video, entitled “Athletes vs Opioids,” is a collaborative effort between The Office of the New Jersey Coordinator for Addiction Responses and Enforcement Strategies (“NJ CARES”) and the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (“NJSIAA”) to fight addiction before it starts.
Student athletes across the state, and the parents of players under the age of 18, will be required to watch the video as a condition of participation in NJSIAA sports programs.
“No student athlete wakes up one morning and decides to become a heroin addict, but for far too many young players, taking pain medication for a sports injury is the first step down that harrowing path,” said Attorney General Gurbir Grewal. “Through this creative collaboration with NJSIAA we’ve found a way to speak directly to young athletes and encourage them to make smart choices if an injury occurs.”
In the video, NFL standout Quincy Enunwa and three-time Olympic champion and Women’s World Cup winner Heather O’Reilly offer students advice on dealing with sports injuries. The video also features former student athletes who courageously and candidly share their stories about becoming addicted to opioids prescribed to them to treat on-field injuries.
“When you consider that four in five new heroin users started out misusing prescription painkillers, the importance of educating student athletes about the risk of addiction is clear,” said Sharon Joyce, director of NJ CARES. “Who better to deliver this important message to teens than the sports icons they look up to and peers they can relate to?”
The video was created through an educational initiative announced last February by the high school sports oversight organization and NJ CARES.
New Jersey law currently requires public school districts, approved private schools for students with disabilities, and nonpublic schools participating in an interscholastic sports program to distribute the Department of Education’s Opioid Use and Misuse Educational Fact sheet to all student-athletes and cheerleaders.
The fact sheet includes basic information on how students obtain opioids, signs of opioid use, preventing opioid use and misuse, and ways for athletes to reduce the risk of injury. General prevention resources are also provided.
NJ CARES is also a partner in the NJSIAA’s Stop Opioid Abuse Program (“SOAP”), an initiative focused on sharing drug abuse avoidance information with high school athletes. Launched in September 2016, SOAP also includes representatives from Garden State Pharmacy Owners, Inc., the New Jersey Prevention Network, and the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey.