How Jimmy Hayes’ Story Can Help Athletes

Reopening a Conversation on The Opioid Crisis and its Unique Impact on Athletes

Retired NHL athlete Jimmy Hayes passed away on August 23, 2021. Three days ago, his cause of death was confirmed as an overdose involving cocaine and fentanyl.

Known best in the PA region for his time on the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins and as the brother of Flyers center Kevin Hayes, Jimmy’s impressive professional career spanned teams such as the Bostin Bruins, Florida Panthers, Chicago Blackhawks, and the New Jersey Devils.

Hayes’ death was a tragic and shocking loss to both those close to him and to the public. Yet, it seems whenever a respected figure passes from an overdose, there are a few conversations surrounding addiction related to the event, but they are soon forgotten about. This is a disservice to the community, and in this case, especially athletes.  

According to ESPN, Hayes drug dependencies began when an injury of his required painkillers. His father stated that Hayes had once called him saying, ‘Dad, I’m hooked on these pills. I got injured and I started taking them and I never got off.’[1]

Athletes are indoctrinated to a different mindset when it comes to drugs. Whereas other kids their age may be educated on the dangers of addictive drugs, many athletes turn to drugs as a way to relax or catch a buzz, as they believe it won’t affect their bodies long term in the way that alcohol does. As well, opioids and painkillers are often seen as a necessary evil as athletes sustain serious injuries at increasing rates. As well, after these operations, or they are seen as a quick fix to allow athletes to play while still in pain.

According to PubMed, Opioid use among professional athletes at any given time, as reported in 2 different studies, ranged from 4.4% to 4.7%. High school athletes had lifetime opioid use rates of 28% to 46%. [2]

Jimmy Hayes’ death should serve as a reminder to all athletes the realities of drug use and its consequences. Athletes tend to think that they are invincible in a way that non-athletes are not, but no person is in a fair match-up against the opioid crisis. We as a community need to start taking tragedies of this kind seriously and learning from these stories to protect others who are at risk.

Anyone can develop a substance dependency. The first thing to remember is that it’s not your fault. The second thing to keep in mind is that help is available. Contact Livengrin at 215-638-5200 or at info@livengrin.org if you believe you or a loved one may need treatment for a substance abuse disorder.

 

[1] https://www.espn.com/nhl/story/_/id/32419258/jimmy-hayes-family-hopes-sharing-story-save-life-fentanyl-contributed-former-nhl-player-sudden-death

 

[2] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32758077/

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