Doctors Suspect Pain Pumps Likely Culprit for Debilitating Joint Condition in Young Athletes

Chondrolysis is a relatively rare ailment that causes joint cartilage to die, which ultimately leaves bone to grind against bone. The condition is painful and increasingly more young athletes are suffering debilitating pain, as well as the end of many of their high school or college athletic careers, because of Chondrolysis. Orthopedic surgeons around the country are perplexed over why the condition develops, but are beginning to suspect a particular culprit–and it isn’t genetics or sports that cause it. Instead, several medical studies have concluded that the likely cause is the pain pump, a postsurgical medical device that delivers anesthetics to a localized area through a plastic tube.

Pain pumps originally became popular with surgeons in the 1990s because they were a better alternative to long-term hospital stays or continuous use of prescription pain killers. However, the Food and Drug Administration never approved pain pumps for use in joints and even issued a warning in November of last year. In fact, doctors believe that continuous use of local anesthetics through the pain pump for over 72 hours turns the otherwise harmless medication into toxins. Six years ago, doctors began noticing more cases of Chondrolysis: patients seemed to heal normally from shoulder surgery, but stopped improving after a period of a time–some athletes to the point where they were incapable of participating in practice for more than 15-20 minutes without their arm “going dead”.

Currently there are more than 150 lawsuits against the manufacturers of pain pumps, alleging that the makers should’ve done more to warn surgeons of the potential risks of the medical devices. Last Friday, an Oregon jury awarded $5.5 million to a patient with Chondrolysis and at least 12 more cases are set to go to trial later this year.