The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

NYC Podiatrists Offer Drug-Free Pain Treatments for High School Athletes

Posted by on Friday, March 10th, 2017

Sports are a leading cause of injury among high school students, but did you know sports trauma is a leading cause of addiction among student athletes? WKRN News, based out of Tennessee, reports that kids who play sports have a higher than average chance of being prescribed hydrocodone, oxycodone and other potentially addictive opioid drugs following an injury. Long term usage of these potent drugs can result in physical dependence that can be challenging to overcome.

The 18-to-25 demographic is also impacted by another opioid: heroin. Many users report that they transitioned from prescription painkillers to heroin after their physicians cut off access to prescribed medications. This age demographic accounts for one of the fastest-growing population segments seeking help at addiction treatment facilities. Many of these patients were once athletes, according to Dean Porterfield, Director of Adolescent and Young Men’s Services.

This frightening reality has many concerned parents seeking sports medicine clinics that offer alternatives to prescription painkillers to lower a teen athlete’s risk of addiction. The Center For Podiatric Care & Sports Medicine, with offices in Manhattan and White Plains, offers a number of innovative therapies to address foot and ankle injuries without the usage of opioid drugs.

drug-free pain treatment
Prescription drugs for pain can lead injured teenage athletes on the path toward addiction. (Image Source:

How Common is Drug Addiction Among High School Athletes?

According to, out of the 2,300 high school seniors surveyed, 12% of boys and 8% of girls had been prescribed painkiller medications at some point in time. Football players accounted for the largest group of students who had taken opioid drugs.

The National Institute of Drug Abuse states that one in 15 people who take non-medical prescription painkillers will try heroin within the next 10 years. With opioid painkillers costing up to $30 per pill on the black market, the shift to a $5 bag of potent heroin is an easy jump, says NYC addiction specialist Harris Stratyner.

Other studies have found that 11% of high school athletes will have used a narcotic pain reliever by their senior year, and what’s more, male athletes in competitive sports had a four times greater chance of misusing painkillers when compared to males who did not participate in sports. Researchers speculate that elements of the athletic culture can increase one’s likelihood to abuse painkillers, particularly elements such as the social nature of sports, the attraction to violence or risky behavior and the pressure to compete and perform when injured.

Why Are Prescription Painkillers Prescribed to Teens?

Prescriptions for Vicodin, OxyContin, morphine and codeine are commonly prescribed to young people who are suffering from chronic pain or serious injuries necessitating surgery. Even fully developed adult brains struggle against the overwhelming euphoria that arises as a side effect from these drugs. The impact can be even more significant on the vulnerable teenage brain, which is still maturing and undergoing changes.

“Doctors may be quick to dole out the painkillers,” explains Dr. Josef J. Geldwert, DPM, “because it is cheap and easy for them to do, and it’s one way of keeping patient satisfaction rates up. Relief of pain symptoms is one of the primary reasons people seek out a specialist’s care, so doctors may feel some pressure there.”

However, the 2016 Guidelines for the Management of Postoperative Pain reported that “less than half of surgical patients reported adequate pain relief” with opioid drugs. There is a misconception among patients that opioid painkillers are a panacea—the ultimate answer—to their problems, Dr. Geldwert adds.

NYC Podiatrists Explore Better Ways to Manage Foot and Ankle Pain

Dr. Geldwert explains, “We feel very strongly at my NYC foot and ankle treatment center that these powerful drugs are a ‘bandaid’ that do little to address the root cause of the pain. So we have invested in advanced technology and training to give our young athletes the very best possible care that science has to offer.”

At The Center For Podiatric Care & Sports Medicine, we use a number of pain management approaches, including:

During surgery, we can use local anesthetics and more effective site-specific, long-lasting regional anesthetic blocks to get you through the first few days following your injury; the time when a patient’s pain levels tend to be the highest. To facilitate a better recovery, we may consider a state-of-the-art gait analysis, a fitting for custom orthotics and some patients may be referred to participate in a physical therapy program with a leading New York City sports medicine specialist. Physical therapy can be effective in treating the underlying biomechanical issues, enabling them to recover more fully. The ultimate result is improved function and more effective long term pain reduction. 

We truly care about your teen athlete’s wellness. Getting pain under control is our top priority, but we understand that the answer is very rarely as simple as popping a pill. Contact us to schedule an appointment with our NYC foot and ankle specialists at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. We would love to meet you for an in-office consultation. For your convenience, you can now schedule an appointment online.


If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.