From 1983 to '85, says Marsh, his steroid use was limited to a few pills and shots after injuries. "It would get me back quicker from surgery," he says, "but it was in very short little spurts."
Steroid use was hardly unknown around the NFL during the 1980s. "We knew the steroid guys," Millen says. "We knew [Pittsburgh Steeler guard] Steve Courson and [Raider defensive end] Lyle Alzado were the big users. It was obvious, their personality swings, their bodies. But Curt was never like that. He couldn't have been a big user. He was too even-keeled."
One observer who knows only too well the impact of steroid use is former team internist Robert Huizenga. "On the Lyle Alzado scale," says Huizenga, "[Marsh] was way, way low. Which was still way too high for me. It is possible that steroids may have contributed to some of the injuries he suffered."
But, says Huizenga, in no way can steroids be blamed for the manner in which Marsh's injuries, specifically those of his right ankle, were diagnosed and treated. "Curt Marsh was misdiagnosed and mistreated," says Huizenga. "There is no doubt in my mind about it."
And Huizenga places most of the blame on the Raiders' orthopedic surgeon, Robert Rosenfeld, who died last January of lung cancer.
Midway through training camp in the summer of 1986, Marsh suffered the injury that would ultimately lead to amputation. He doesn't recall exactly when or how it occurred, but he remembers looking at his ankle one day in camp and seeing that it had swollen to the size of a grapefruit. From the beginning, say Huizenga and Marsh, Rosenfeld stated that the pain in Marsh's ankle was caused by strained ligaments. Through two operations after the '86 season to remove bone chips from the ankle, Rosenfeld stuck to his diagnosis. Huizenga was present on one occasion when Rosenfeld examined Marsh. "He probed his fingers around the ankle a bit and reached his same conclusion," says Huizenga. "He never even suggested that something else might be wrong."
Yet a CAT scan would subsequently reveal that Marsh had broken the talus bone, which, with the tibia and the fibula, forms the ankle joint. Rosenfeld had never ordered either a CAT scan or an MRI, either of which would have been warranted for an injury as chronic as Marsh's. Marsh says his doctors now conclude that, based on the extent of the deterioration of the ankle, the bone may have been broken during training camp in 1986.
Despite repeated requests from SI, neither Raider owner Al Davis nor anyone else with the team would comment on Marsh's allegations concerning the treatment of his injuries. Nor would they comment on a book recently published by Huizenga, titled "You're Okay, It's Just a Bruise," which discusses Marsh's case and cites dozens of other examples of what Huizenga characterizes as improper medical treatment by Rosenfeld.
The Raiders' orthopedic surgeon since 1968, Rosenfeld also practiced at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles for 46 years, and his patients included many of the city's leading personalities. But, says Huizenga, Rosenfeld was proudest of his Raider affiliation, decorating his lavish Beverly Hills office with team memorabilia and photographs.
In 1983 Huizenga, who was an assistant clinical professor of medicine at UCLA, joined the Raiders at the invitation of Rosenfeld, who was 40 years his senior. Huizenga says that he and Rosenfeld were often at odds, but that he stayed with the team "to see what I could do to help from the inside. It was tough, it went against a lot of what I believe in as a doctor." Huizenga finally resigned in '89 after learning that Rosenfeld had refused to tell safety Mike Harden that another injury to his neck could cause paralysis. The Raiders say that Huizenga was fired, but they have never offered a reason for his dismissal.