A former University of Southern California football player from Elk Grove filed a lawsuit today charging that team doctors repeatedly administered a painkiller to him that gave him a heart attack, and that after he recovered the school blocked his attempts to transfer and cost him a shot at the National Football League.
The suit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court today by Armond Armstead, now 22 and playing in Canada, who said the injections of the prescription pain-killing drug Toradol were forced on him by coaches and doctors without his knowledge.
USC's football program, ranked No. 1 in the preseason Associated Press poll, last year generated a profit of $29 million.
"Such a level of financial success depends on fielding superior players game after game," said the suit filed by Sacramento attorney Roger A. Dreyer.
USC officials were not immediately available to comment on the suit today.
The suit names the university, an unnamed pharmaceutical company, football team physician Dr. James Tibone and the University Park Health Center as defendants.
It does not seek a specific amount in damages, but Dreyer said the "potential" for the case could run into the tens of millions of dollars.
That estimate is based on Armstead's lost value as a result of his not being able to play his senior year at USC, which the lawyer said destroyed the 6-foot-5, 295-pound defensive lineman's chances to work his way into becoming a high-level NFL draft pick. Armstead played high school football at Pleasant Grove.
Toradol is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory generic pain-killing drug, similar to ibuprofen. It also goes by the name of ketorolac and is supposed to be used for short-term relief for severe pain.
Armstead's 37-page suit said the USC staff first shot him up in mid-2009, when he was coming back from a broken foot.
The next year he was given 10 injections over the course of weeks following a shoulder injury, the suit says, and was told they were "mandatory."
In February 2011 he complained of chest pain three times during workouts and medical personnel at the on-campus University Park Health Center center injected him with Toradol twice, according to the suit.
It wasn't until he was taken on March 3, 2011, to USC University Hospital, which is not named in the suit, that doctors discovered he had suffered a heart attack. The lawsuit says the Toradol injections "were a substantial factor in causing the myocardial infarction."