By Gianluca D'Eliag

Students statewide will now be required to watch the opioid education video to participate in high school athletics

The state has an important message about opioids for student athletes, and well-known professionals are stepping in to help convey it.

Student athletes across the state, as well as parents of players under the age of 18, will be required to watch a new educational video as a condition of participation in New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) sports programs. The organization regulates sports in 435 schools statewide.

In addition to stories from athletes recovering from addiction, the required video features appearances by Quincy Enunwa, a wide receiver for the New York Jets, and U.S. Women’s National soccer player Heather O’Reilly, an East Brunswick native, as well as orthopedic physician Claudia Ginsberg, who specializes in sports injuries. In the video, they share advice about dealing with injuries and seeking options other than opioids, even if it means being off the field longer.

“No student athlete wakes up one morning and decides to become a heroin addict, but for far too many young players, taking pain medication for a sports injury is the first step down that harrowing path,” Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said in a statement. “Through this creative collaboration with NJSIAA we’ve found a way to speak directly to young athletes and encourage them to make smart choices if an injury occurs.”

The video was made in collaboration with the Office of the New Jersey Coordinator for Addiction Responses and Enforcement Strategies.

“When you consider that four in five new heroin users started out misusing prescription painkillers, the importance of educating student athletes about the risk of addiction is clear,” said Sharon Joyce, the director of NJ CARES. “Who better to deliver this important message to teens than the sports icons they look up to and peers they can relate to?”

State law already requires schools participating in an interscholastic sports program to distribute the Department of Education's Opioid Use and Misuse Educational fact sheet to all student athletes.

“Sports offer tremendous benefits to student athletes, though the injuries that can be part of participation make them statistically more likely than non-athletes to be exposed to opioid painkillers,” said NJSIAA Executive Director Larry White. “So anything we can do to warn them of the danger is worthwhile, and I’m confident this video from the Office of the Attorney General will do that. It focuses on a frightening subject and is truly eye-opening.”