Can Athletes Benefit from Using Marijuana?

For decades, sports athletes — particularly football players — have managed their pain with powerful prescription painkillers, post-game beers and OTC anti-inflammatories. The professional sport’s dependence on drugs to manage pain has now caused the Drug Enforcement Administration to open an investigation and may just be the subject of a federal lawsuit.

The use of marijuana in the nation’s professional sports leagues remains controversial. Cannabis on the National Football League’s banned substances list, but increasingly, players are calling for the league to reassess its position and consider adopting a fairer cannabis policy.

A study involving 644 Retired Players Association Directory NFL players in 2009 who answered an over-the-telephone survey revealed the following:

Former Baltimore Raven player Eugene Monroe, who at the time was 30 years old, said his body was damaged and the pain doesn’t ever go away. The Baltimore Ravens released him last year after he became the first active player to ask the league publicly to allow medical cannabis. According to Monroe, he has to manage his pain somehow, going on to say:

“Managing it with pills was slowly killing me. Now I’m able to function and be extremely efficient by figuring out how to use different formulations of cannabis.”

There’s also the NFL’s concussion crisis. Many of its players have to retire early and some choose not to play anymore because of potential long-term consequences that don’t appear until later in life from dealing with too many head injuries. CBD, the non-psychoactive part of weedcan potentially treat and even prevent chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is a degenerative brain disease found in athletes who have a history of trauma to the brain.

Advocates of marijuana in professional sports say there’s a healthier and safer alternative available: medical cannabis. The thought is that the NFL could invest in some research on medical marijuana to see how it improves its players’ health.

Related Reading: Medical Marijuana Resources and Education

The Benefits of Medical Marijuana in Sports

Medical weed offers professional sports many benefits. It can potentially help with a variety of symptoms, including:

Reducing Pain

Marijuana is an analgesic. It can help ease the pain while you exercise and after. Many professional athletes may be inclined to use pot after their workouts to manage their achy and painful muscles and leg soreness.

Decreasing Inflammation

Both THC and CBD can be helpful in managing the inflammation that occurs after exercise. Cannabinoids offer potent anti-inflammatory components which exert their effects through the inhibition of cell proliferation, induction of apoptosis, induction of T-regulatory cells (Tregs) and suppression of cytokine production.

Protecting the Lung, Heart and Brain

CBD can help decrease inflammation while protecting the lungs, heart and brain during injury and after. Researchers continue to study CBD’s short-term neuroprotective effects in the brain for possible treatment of sports concussions.