Treating Pain Relief in Sports With Marijuana

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Figure 1 Marijuana has long been used by athletes – but not always legally

Ricky Williams is just one of the high profile former football stars that served suspensions because of marijuana use while still an elite athlete. In his career he seemed to spend as much time in the news about his drug use as he did in the best Florida sportsbooks, or in the sports pages.

But now he is a major advocate for the use of medical cannabis – especially when it comes to athletes dealing with pain, injury and other social issues. Sports authorities have been notoriously reluctant to allow the use of any drug – for any reason. But, with new studies and clinical evidence now available, might a shift in thinking be around the corner?

Marijuana and Drug Use in Sports

It is well known that elite athletes put their bodies through hell to excel in their chosen sports. Some sports, such as football, put an incredible toll on the bodies of its participants – and many top players have turned to the healing qualities of marijuana to help with pain relief.

Although new drug laws were introduced only this year, the NFL has tended to come down hard on any player failing drug tests. This kind of punishment is understandable when it comes to performance-enhancing drugs in all sports. But it seems less important when it comes to marijuana and the relieving of pain.

Alternative to Opioids

One argument regularly used by those advocating for medical cannabis use and the de-stigmatization of THC and CBD, is that marijuana is a far more positive alternative to using opioids to relieve pain. Athletes start taking opioids to continue their careers and they can then become a much more serious problem.

Opioid addiction is an issue out of sports as well, of course. But if an athlete was able to feel comfortable using medical cannabis – without the fear of picking up a ban – then this more natural alternative might well become more popular. There needs to be more studies into the subject, but the facts seem to support the case put forward by advocates.

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Figure 2 Scientific studies have suggested that cannabis is good for pain relief

Benefits of Marijuana

Some top athletes have already gone on record to promote the use of CBD especially. Cannabidiol (commonly referred to as CBD) has been shown to deal effectively with the types of injury, inflammation and pain that sports athletes regularly deal with.

The benefit of CBD, as opposed to THC, is that it comes without the psychoactive elements. It has been suggested that THC can cause side effects and could affect athletic performance. There are even studies showing that it can be addictive like opioids. If medical cannabis can be proven to relieve the pain and help with recovery from injury – and not enhance performance – then advocates argue that it should be fully legalized.

New Study into Cannabis Use in NFL

We mentioned earlier that the NFL has long been against any move to allow marijuana use for its athletes – whether it is for medical or recreational use. But there does seem to be a change in the way those in charge deal with marijuana. A new study by scientists in California, funded partly by the NFL, is looking into whether a combination of THC and CBD can be used to reduce injury layoffs and relieve pain.

This is a controversial and groundbreaking move from one of the biggest sports leagues in the country. Cannabis use of any kind is banned in many sports, as well as in the Olympics. But if the NFL is happy to permit some kind of medical marijuana use by its players, other leagues and sports authorities may be interested in relaxing some draconian punishments too.

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