HOUSTON – Early in Super Bowl week, as the dazzling fan plaza and NFL Experience destination downtown were starting to get cranking and the Falcons’ heartbreak was still days away, a low-key, medically themed news conference with just a relative handful in attendance began with a newsflash.
In walked former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick.
Old No. 7 (whose Atlanta jersey we spotted here and there in the crowds throughout the week) coincidentally had just posted an open letter to Atlanta on the Players’ Tribune web site. In our quick interview Vick talked about his gratitude toward Atlanta, the Falcons and the fans and the rousing ovation he’d received earlier this year when he visited the Georgia Dome during the team’s final regular-season game.
“It was one of the best feelings,” he said. “It started the year off right for me.”
Shortly thereafter Vick took a seat, as a member of a panel discussing a new non-opiate pain therapy called Pro-IV Chronic Pain DripFusion. Dr. Kevin Jackson of Chicago, a member of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons and Congress of Neurological Surgeons, is heading up Pro-IV’s chronic pain study along with nine partner physicians across the country, including Dr. Mark Beaty of Atlanta.
“We truly are on the cusp of being able to significantly advance our ability to practice medicine safely in the United States,” Beaty said. “We’re very excited. The evidence I’ve seen so far has been very encouraging.”
Backers hope the procedure, which involves an infusion of anti-opiate, anti-steroid micronutrients to treat inflammation working in conjunction with pain medication will gain support among the professional sports community and beyond. Joining Vick, who has used the procedure for pain management, were U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Michael Smith, who returned to active duty after losing his arm in a 2011 traffic accident and Sara White, widow of NFL player Reggie White. She has multiple sclerosis and has also suffered the earlier affects of a tennis injury.
“When you get hurt the American military gives you pain meds,” Smith said. “You get used to it. You’re numb to everything. I was taking Oxycontin on top of morphine on top of Dilaudid. Two years after my injury, 22 surgeries later, I went to sleep one night without taking my pain medications. When I woke up I thought I was dying. It was a tough battle to get off of them.”
White talked about her battle with pain medication, too.
“I was an addict,” she said. “I was addicted to being pain-free.”
Vick, who has indicated his playing days are over, called the procedure promising.
“If this was introduced to me three or four years ago then maybe I’d be playing,” he said. “That’s not the case but I can have an impact moving forward. There were a ton of injuries over the course of my career. Those are lingering injuries I still have to deal with to this day, in terms of pain. I felt really compelled to want to be a part of this process in helping athletes, past and present, understand what’s at stake in terms of health.”
Beaty, who noted a close connection between chronic inflammation and chronic disease, said his office has performed the Pro-IV treatment several hundred times and is encouraged by the early results.
“We’re still in the process of data collection,” he said. “Anecdotally, the overwhelming majority of people we’ve treated have had a positive response.”
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