Professional athletes are always looking for a way to help heal faster, feel better, and focus more. They seem to be bigger, faster, and stronger than those in past generations. Although that makes for great sporting events and television, the wear and tear on today's athletes seem egregious in comparison to athletes in past generations. They're retiring earlier based on injury or chronic pain, and too many retired NFL players have committed suicide due to concussions and other forms of head trauma. Lately, there have been questions circling about CBD being a possible solution for these athletes. With the current research behind CBD, there is a fair argument that it could potentially help these athletes in many different ways. Leagues like the NBA and the NFL are currently taking note of the studies behind CBD and could potentially allow athletes to use it in the near future.
CBD and medical marijuana use has been brought up many times to NBA officials. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has stated that he's "open to talk about" CBD and other medical marijuana uses for the athletes. He's also stated that he wants to "take precaution" before allowing it, making sure that it's absolutely safe for the athletes. Many of these athletes have come out and admitted their use to help increase focus and subside everyday aches and pains. One of these athletes is Al Harrington. Harrington started his NBA career just out of high school and was the 25th draft pick back in 1998. He had a 16 year stint in the league and, like most NBA athletes, had his fair share of joint and knee pain. In 2012, while playing for the Denver Nuggets, Harrington had a knee surgery that ended up getting a staph infection. Confused and left with ambiguous answers, he looked into medical marijuana. Harrington stated, "I didn't have much research to do because I was in Denver when everything started going legal. It was in the paper everyday." He then started using medical marijuana salves and creams that he'd rub on his knees, and tinctures taken sublingually to help subside the pain. He also explains that he tried and used many different anti-inflammatory drugs for over 7 years that didn't work. Since he started using CBD and other forms of medical marijuana, he hasn't used anything else to help with pain management. Another surprising activist is former NBA Commissioner David Stern. Stern has had his problems with marijuana in the past, but has since come around to the idea that CBD and medical marijuana could be helpful to many different people, especially athletes. "I'm personally at a point where I think it should be taken off the banned substance list," Stern stated. "Can you imagine if we could create a situation where superstars got the chance to play an extra year?" I think I speak for everyone when I say that I'd love to see LeBron James or Kevin Durant be in the league longer than expected, and CBD could possibly make that happen.
The NFL is a little more wishy-washy when it comes to CBD and medical marijuana. Some NFL officials are open to a conversation, where others are not as open-minded. Joe Lockhart, the NFL's Executive VP of Communications has said, "We look forward to working with the Players Association on all safety and health issues." DeMaurice Smith, the NFLPA Executive Director went on to say, “I do think that issues of addressing it more in a treatment and less punitive measure is appropriate. I think it’s important to look at whether there are addiction issues. And I think it’s important to not simply assume recreation is the reason it’s being used." So, the fight for CBD and medical marijuana seem to be at a standstill for the moment. However, in 2014, the league relaxed its policy on THC being in players' systems, so they are showing progression in that aspect. However, many players don't think that's good enough. Retired NFL athletes have come out and showed their support in CBD and medical marijuana. Reggie Williams, a former linebacker for the Cincinnati Bengals, has shown his support. His gnarled knee has been through over 20 different surgeries and is always accompanied with a 96-hour CBD patch, which he claims helps him with his day-to-day. He also claims that a year and a half ago, he was on crutches and was afraid they were going to amputate his leg due to infections and bone complications. Luckily, with CBD he found a way to keep his leg and a way to walk again. With physical health obviously being a concern, it seems most former and current NFL players are concerned with the mental health side of CBD and medical marijuana. Tennessee Titans linebacker Derrick Morgan is one of the very few active players advocating use of CBD in the NFL. "I love the game," he said, "but we didn't know at the time what the inherent risks were." Morgan is speaking of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). CTE is a degenerative brain disease cause by a series of head trauma. "For me it's about the neuroprotectant qualities of it," Morgan said. A former lineman, Kyle Turley, has had a platform at the last 2 Super Bowls, telling his personal truths and truths about the NFL. Turley talks about how the NFL over prescribes painkillers and all kinds of dangerous drugs. Most recently, NFL teams were sued by over 1,800 players for frequently violating federal laws of how they should track, store, distribute prescription pain killers. “I was prescribed a myriad of painkillers, muscle relaxers and anti-inflammatories but due to neurological issues that continued to arise with vertigo, severe migraine headache issues and seizures, I was hospitalized multiple times. I was prescribed medications to deal with all of those things and that led to psych medications like Wellbutrin and Depakote and Zoloft and things like that.” After his career, he started having mental flare-ups, where he'd fall into a deep depression, have seizures, suicidal thoughts, dementia, and early onset Alzheimer's. “I think they (prescription drugs) accelerated the issues.” He then moved to California to get medical help through cannabis and succeeded, claiming it "gave me my life back."
There are some professional sports that are a little more open to it than the NBA and NFL. In 2002, the MLB Player's Union agreed to their first drug policy, maintaining focus on Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) rather than marijuana. MMA fighters are also getting relief from CBD. Nate Diaz made his stance clear when he openly vaped CBD oil during a press conference. In further good news, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has removed CBD from the banned substance list. Although CBD and medical marijuana still seem to be in an unknown state for professional sports in America for now, they are getting much more attention. With that attention, we can only hope for progress.
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