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James Franklin refused painkillers for dealing with shoulder injury

James Franklin, Jarvis Jones AP

Confirming what had been rumored the day before, Missouri quarterback James Franklin did not take the field Saturday night against Arizona State because of lingering soreness in his shoulder. Franklin missed practically the entire offseason recovering from shoulder surgery and re-aggravated the injury in Week 2’s loss to Georgia.

According to Tigers coach Gary Pinkel, the decision to not take the field against the Sun Devils was Franklin’s choice, not one made by the coaches or training staff. Why? Because Franklin refused to take an injection with painkillers.

That’s not the part of the story generating buzz. Franklin, according to his father, has never taken any sort of medication. In fact, the Franklin family is a drug-free one. “He’s never even taken an aspirin once in his life,” Willie Franklin told the St. Louis Post-Disptach. “In our family, we don’t believe in taking medication (for pain) or trying to soften anything with any drugs.”

It’s how Pinkel phrased Franklin’s reasoning that gained the most attention.

It was just too painful for him, and he didn’t want to play,” Pinkel said after a 24-20 win over ASU before clarifying later, “He said, ‘It hurts too much. I can’t play.’ ”

So, Franklin didn’t want to play or couldn’t play?

That’s been the debate, the center of which included questioning Franklin’s toughness. But, here’s the thing: never mind what Pinkel’s intent was or how the comments were perceived. No one plays at this level — no one plays football in general — without being tough. If a player isn’t tough enough mentally or physically to survive the next level, they fizzle out quickly.

Franklin is a junior and has a full year under his belt as the starting quarterback for the Tigers. As a dual-threat, he ran 217 times in 13 games last season, an average of between 16 and 17 times a game. That’s toughness, and if he doesn’t believe in taking a cortisone injection, then that’s his prerogative because it’s his body. If he loses his starting job — Franklin is still listed as Mizzou’s starter — or gets labeled as “soft” because of it, then so be it. Franklin has priorities and playing without the assistance of painkillers, which can be addictive, is clearly important to him.

The traditional belief about toughness in football is that everyone plays hurt, and when a coach says a player is “100 percent”, he really means they’re about 80 to 90 percent with the help of a cortisone shot. Franklin’s going another route, but that shouldn’t translate into meaning he somehow is lacking toughness.

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14 Responses to “James Franklin refused painkillers for dealing with shoulder injury”
  1. southernpatriots says: Sep 17, 2012 10:55 PM

    Ben, thank you for your balanced and thoughtful treatment of James’ decision. Are coaches treating players, even “star” players, like they are commodities? James Franklin is a breath of fresh air in the midst of what is becoming a highly medicated society. Most drug abuse is not of illegal drugs, but of prescription medication. I know that from first hand experience from my personal observations and that of my colleagues.

    I have only come across one college athlete who shared James’ views and this athlete cited religious reasons. I was able to recommend holistic and naturalistic therapies which involved massage, heat and water treatments which did bring much needed relief. The best answer is not always a shot or pain reliever or sedative or drink of alcohol or drug.

    I wish James the best and hope that his coach understands James and his position. The pressure of now being in the SEC may be weighing heavily on Pinkel or he may have been speaking before he thought, which is sometimes called “coachitis.”

  2. kozbee says: Sep 17, 2012 11:04 PM

    Welcome to the SEC Missouri / Franklin.

  3. jaygott87 says: Sep 17, 2012 11:10 PM

    Wow, that must have hurt like hell when he had shoulder surgery without any medication :)

  4. Tim's Neighbor says: Sep 18, 2012 1:05 AM

    Yes. Welcome to the SEC. No other conferences have players who get hurt.

    /wanking motion

  5. dawgs105 says: Sep 18, 2012 2:36 AM

    Thank you for a great article. Need more kids like this.

  6. kurtrundell says: Sep 18, 2012 8:25 AM

    I had surgery three years ago to repair a torn labrum, and it took me a year and a half to fully recover. And I’m pretty young and fit. This kid has surgery on his throwing shoulder back in February or March and is no way near full recovery. Good for him for having some sense.

  7. alligatorsnapper says: Sep 18, 2012 8:30 AM


    Thank you for sharing your experience and adding to the reality of this thread.

    I had shoulder surgery about 13 months ago and I am not back to normal yet. Thanks for giving me hope that maybe in a few more months I will be there.

    Someone like you who has been through it and fully recovered can speak to this very well.

  8. florida727 says: Sep 18, 2012 9:33 AM

    Even though I’m old :) I still play basketball a couple times a week, and among my gang of friends/players are several doctors. ALL of them have warned me against taking cortisone shots (I’ve had 9 broken ankles or ligament tears, and an Achilles tear), saying it “masks” the problem, but exposes it to greater damage that, frankly, you just might not feel… at least not until it’s too late.

    If anything, I think Franklin’s stance shows, a) a toughness beyond what most would endure, and b) a sensical upbringing by his parents, who clearly need to be applauded for raising a well-balanced young man who, although football may be important to him and provide him with an education, clearly doesn’t over-exaggerate its importance in his life.

    Personally, I think Missouri is lucky to have him.

  9. matthewcarlson1 says: Sep 18, 2012 10:09 AM

    Well he plays for Missouri, its not like its Bama or USC. I think its really cool that he’s never taken medication.. Wonder if that includes anesthesia during his surgery.

  10. slk018 says: Sep 18, 2012 11:21 AM

    A 21 yr old grown man playing in the SEC chose not to play bc of too much pain?? Grow a pair…Plaing hurt (not injured) is part of the game…His teammates should have zero respect for him…His whole O line should sit out next week bc of their bumps and bruises

  11. pike573 says: Sep 18, 2012 12:09 PM

    I know people don’t like slko18’s comment. But from what I’ve heard, his coaches and teammates had the same reaction.

  12. slk018 says: Sep 18, 2012 2:23 PM


    Thanks fior the support.
    Let me say this:
    I played division 1 baseball and played my senior year with a torn labrum in my throwing shoulder. Did it hurt? Hell ya. But, I knew I didnt want to let my teammates or my self down. I knew this may be the last chance I ever get to play this game competitively, so i nutted up and played every game and had the best year of my life. In a position of leadership, the last thing you want to lose is the respect of your teammates. Franklin has done that. look at Pinkell’s comments.
    He is basically saying “My QB is a pussy” without saying it.
    So all you clowns who never played sports at a high level applauding this guy, you obviously dont get it. If he doesnt want a shot, fine dont get a shot but you better still play. You signed there to play football, not watch bc you have vaginitis.

    Now, if it is case of an injury that can become worse by playing, that is a whole different ball game. But, in this case it was just pain. Im only 26, I cant imagine with the old school athletes think about this.

  13. slk018 says: Sep 18, 2012 2:26 PM

    Hey Dawgs,

    We need more kids like this?? Haha are you serious. we need more soft people in sports?
    I bet you would want aaron Murray to sit out if he had a some pain right??

  14. alligatorsnapper says: Sep 18, 2012 4:13 PM

    ESPN and local news reporters in Missouri report this is same shoulder Franklin had surgery on this spring. Cordesone shots do not deal with the injury but just mask the pain. Doctors will tell you than taking cordesone shots when there is an underlying serious injury which required surgery a few months ago could cause even greater injury.

    Last season Franklin played with nine nagging injuries including a swollen knee and broken finger, among others.

    With much greater insight and information the ESPN writer addresses this matter at this link:

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