Few athletic professionals take harder hits to their bodies than those in the National Football League (NFL). The physical nature of the game leaves many players with wounds that ache long after players have stepped off of the field. Athletes in the NFL have access to some of the best doctors and medical care around. So, it only makes sense that players in states with medicinal cannabis have access to this revolutionary medicine, right? Unfortunately, NFL policy doesn’t allow players to enjoy the pain relief that cannabis offers. However, that could be changing—leaving NFL players free to take hard hits on and off the field.
“Cannabis, and specifically cannabinoids, are a legitimate and safe way for pain management. [CBD has] been shown to provide natural relief from pain, inflammation, anxiety, psychosis, seizures, spasms and other conditions without the psychoactive effects typically found in marijuana use.”
In late July, it was widely reported that the NFL wrote to the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) offering to study how cannabis could aid athletes with pain management. This comes after the NFLPA announced it would be studying cannabis as an alternative for pain management in late 2016. It’s no surprise NFL players would turn to cannabis, and to CBD specifically, to cope with the excruciating pain that comes with their many injuries.
Ex-NFL players have already begun embracing and advocating for the use of cannabis for pain management. Now there are special sports divisions and physicians who see the potential that cannabis, but more specifically CBD, has for treating professional athletes.
The sports division at Boulder Botanicals & Biosciences Laboratories LLC in Boulder, Colorado, has been working on introducing CBD as pain relief to the sports world. Shawn Hermanson, who oversees the sports division, works primarily to educate and promote awareness about the healing power of CBD when it comes to pain management, in addition to treating ailments like chronic traumatic encephalopathy, traumatic brain injury, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression, all of which are common among professional athletes.
One story Hermanson likes to tell is about a professional football player who came to Boulder Botanicals’ sports division, who had never smoked cannabis in his life. The player vehemently opposed using CBD initially. After being extensively educated on cannabinoids, and carefully considering the pros and cons, the player finally agreed. Fast forward to a few weeks later, and that same reluctant player was on the phone with Hermanson “ . . . blown away by the results and wanting to know more about why he was feeling the best he had felt in years,” Hermanson told CULTURE.
“Cannabis, and specifically cannabinoids, are a legitimate and safe way for pain management. [CBD has] been shown to provide natural relief from pain, inflammation, anxiety, psychosis, seizures, spasms and other conditions without the psychoactive effects typically found in marijuana use.” Hermanson stated. He continued to explain that although opioids have long been the go-to medication for treating the pain of NFL athletes, these pharmaceutical medications are extremely addictive, physically harmful and potentially even fatal. Athletes often see cannabis as a much safer alternative for athletes. “Another beneficial aspect is that cannabinoids are non-addictive and non-habit forming, unlike the opioids that players are now prescribed,” Hermanson said. “We understand the challenge of working to wean players off opioids while bringing real and natural solutions to the players.”
Despite the incredible breakthroughs humans have made in medical science in the last century, it seems when it comes to treating pain, Mother Nature still has us beat. With opioid addiction a national epidemic, and new research confirming the effectiveness of cannabis as medicine all the time, it would be the logical next step for the NFL to allow players to treat their aching bodies with cannabis. Allowing the plant to be studied as a treatment is an encouraging first step.
Although the NFL has only recently begun to consider cannabis as an acceptable form of treatment for its players, much of the information confirming the benefits of medical cannabis has already been studied and published. One medical professional in particular, Dr. Rav Inker, has worked with nearly 7,000 patients suffering from a variety of common chronic pain conditions, who are using cannabis as treatment. Dr. Ivker reported to CULTURE that after starting on medical cannabis, the vast majority of his patients have been able to either completely eliminate the use of opioids or at the very least have significantly reduced their daily dosages.
“The cannabis plant contains approximately 80 different [known] cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD, which are the best known and most studied cannabinoids,” Dr. Ivker stated. “Within the body are endocannabinoids (almost identical to the cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant) and receptors that comprise a neurological network called the endocannabinoid system. Each cannabinoid has a specific therapeutic function, which is initiated as it binds to the receptor, a process similar to the way a key fits into a lock.”