Athlete’s hopes of playing pro ball dashed by shoulder pain pump

Mathew McKeown, 23, of Blue Ash, Ohio, dreamed of playing pro ball. He was an all-city football player in high school and earned a scholarship to play for Miami. Making it to the NFL was just a matter of time.

But during a game in October 2006, McKeown’s left shoulder was injured while trying to recover a fumble. Doctors implanted the catheter of a On-Q PainBuster pain pump manufactured by I-Flow into his shoulder joint. For up to 72 hours, medication gradually dripped into his shoulder and slowly began eating away at the cartilage.

But McKeown was tough. He rehabbed quickly and bulked up to 300 pounds. He lead the team in weightlifting statistics, bench pressing a maximum of 460 pounds. His chances at making to the NFL one day seemed promising.

Even as he worked out, he ignored the burning pain in his shoulder, refusing to admit to anyone how badly it hurt. And then he injured his shoulder again. Once again, he was put on an I-Flow pain pump that dripped medication into his shoulder joint. A follow up MRI revealed a horrible mess. The promising athlete’s shoulder cartilage had been worn down so badly that repairing it was impossible. McKeown’s hopes for a professional football career were ruined.

McKeown is now suing I-Flow, the manufacturer of the pain pump, after he and his doctor learned that a 2006 study had revealed that by inserting the pain pump’s catheter in McKeown’s shoulder joint instead of the muscle tissue, the medicine essentially destroyed his shoulder. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had granted approval to have the pain pump’s catheters inserted into the muscle tissue, but denied manufacturers’ request to instruct surgeons to place the catheters in the shoulder joint. As a result, countless patients have suffered similar fates as McKeown.