Rugby players are hooked on Tramadol, warns England manager Tony Adams

Rugby players are getting hooked on prescription painkillers like Tramadol and buying pills from the internet, warns former footballer Tony Adams

  • More than 400 rugby players sought help for painkiller addiction since 2011
  • Tony Adams is the founder of mental health charity Sporting Chance
  • He revealed rugby players want to get rid of pain after tackles and get addicted 
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Rugby players are so ‘determined to keep on playing’ following ‘tackle after tackle’ they become addicted to painkillers, the head of a mental health charity revealed.

Tony Adams, English football manager and founder of charity Sporting Chance, said rugby league players need so many painkillers to recover from each game they are becoming addicted.

And Tramadol is the drug of choice as players stockpile the pills from a GP and top up their stash by buying more online, according to ex-Arsenal player.


In 2017 former Bradford and Warrington forward Rob Parker (pictured) told the BBC’s One Show there was a risk rugby players would develop an addiction. He spoke of his own injuries – a fractured skull, fractured cheekbones, plates in his jaw and hands – that forced him to take increasing amounts of Tramadol until he could not stop

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The former England centre-half told the Telegraph his charity had helped 400 players stop their addiction to prescription painkillers since 2011.

He said: ‘They’re making tackle after tackle after tackle and it hurts. So they’re getting painkillers like Tramadol from the doctor, prescribed drugs, and then getting a load off the internet as well to go out there and do it again and again. 


Tony Adams, English football manager and founder of charity Sporting Chance, said rugby league players need so many painkillers to recover from each game they are becoming addicted

‘All of a sudden you get addicted and it becomes a vicious cycle.’  

In 2017 former Bradford and Warrington forward Rob Parker told the BBC’s One Show there was a risk rugby players would develop an addiction.

He spoke of his own injuries – a fractured skull, fractured cheekbones, plates in his jaw and hands – that forced him to take increasing amounts of Tramadol until he could not stop.

And when he tried to quit in 2013 he went through a month of stomach cramps, sweats and complete exhaustion.

He said: ‘I was determined to keep playing, so I carried on training and using Tramadol to get over my injuries and that’s where the addiction started to come in.’

Former Portsmouth manager Mr Adams set up his mental health charity to support sports men and women battle mental illness after he overcame an addiction to drugs and alcohol in 1996.

He is now set to become the 29th president of the Rugby Football League following his work in player welfare programs. 


William Duke of Cambridge met Mr Adams in 2017.  In 1996 the former footballer stopped drinking and taking drugs. Two years later he wrote his autobiography, ‘Addicted’, in 1998 about his experience with alcohol dependency

Sporting Chance started in 2000 as a clinic that offered emotional support to players.

And it now deals less with alcohol addiction and more with problems with anxiety and relationships, according to Mr Adams.

In 2017, the same year Mr Parker raised the alarm regarding the painkiller addiction, former Great Britain half back Leon Pryce praised Sporting Chance for saving his life after a knee injury forced him to retire.

Despite Tramadol being less addictive than other opioid painkillers such as codeine or morphine, the more the drug is taken the less it reduces pain meaning higher doses are necessary.      

What is Tony Adams’ mental health charity Sporting Chance?

Founder Tony Adams had suffered from alcohol and drug addiction throughout his footballing career in the 1980s and into the 1990s.

In 1996 he went teetotal and the former England captain wrote his autobiography, ‘Addicted’, in 1998 about his experience with alcohol dependency.

Using money made from book sales Mr Adams set up the charity Sporting Chance in 2000 as a clinic to help sports people battle mental health issues and addictions.

It is now the largest provider in the world of treatment and support for sports professionals.

Both current and retired sports men and women can receive residential treatment for addiction,  therapy and counselling services as well as education and training for living a positive lifestyle.

The charity is supported by the professional Footballers’ Association, Football Association, the Premier League, League Football Education and the Rugby Football League. 

Source: Sporting Chance Clinic 

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