The Hazy History of Cannabis and the NFL
It’s late in the year. The leaves have browned. Autumn has nestled itself around the Sound and as the days grow darker, Seattleites light up in a sea of green.
Action green that is, as football, and more importantly the Seahawks’, season is well under way.
What better way to spend a Sunday than with the hawks, good food, good friends and some good weed? Many fans are already well aware of how legal cannabis can enhance the experience of watching a game, hearing the roar of the crowd and feeling their hearts pound as Russell Wilson makes stellar passes, but another part of the population does not have the same easy access to cannabis:
the players themselves.
Pain at a Price
It doesn’t take a genius to notice that being in the NFL is no easy feat. You’re constantly getting battered and barraged by some the strongest, most massive athletes in the world.
For football players, the snap of the pigskin has conditioned them to prepare for a beating. Their daily lives are full of physical pain, pain that continues even once they’ve made their way off the gridiron.
The NFL has a way to combat the constant aches and agony players suffer: painkillers.
These opioids such as Vicodin and oxycontin, with long-known detrimental side effects and dangers, are given to professional athletes to keep them on the field.
But according to the Washington Post, NFL teams have violated federal laws and disregarded the DEA’s guidance on how to track and distribute controlled substances.
A 2011 study on opioid use in the NFL reported that, of players who used painkillers, 70% admitted to misusing them. These controlled substances have been known to make matters worse for players in the long run, creating addiction, causing nerves to react oddly, and even increasing the body’s chances of having a heart attack.
Athletes for Care has an answer to this crisis. The organization, founded by former NFL players, tackles those opioid addictions and suggests a holistic approach to protecting and healing players’ minds and bodies.
Their preferred solution? Legal cannabis.
Overperforming Under the Influence
Rather than taking risky pain killers that cloud thinking and disturb the body’s natural functions, players are turning to the mind-clearing effects of cannabis to fight their pain.
Eben Britton, a former NFL lineman and one of the founders of Athletes for Care is one of the biggest supporters of cannabis use among the NFL.
In an article published through Leafly in 2016, Britton explained his stance on pain relief in the NFL. “I never felt much physical relief from the painkillers,” said Britton. “In my years of coping with major injuries, I learned they do nothing good for me. I have never had a good experience taking them.”
Britton was looking for an answer; a way to keep playing the game he loves without having to ruin his body with pharmaceutical pain medication. He turned to weed.
“Cannabis relieved the physical pain, but it did more… it soothed my psychological state and enhanced my spirituality,” explained Britton.
For Eben, and countless other NFL players, weed is the answer to their problems. It clears their mind and helps them focus on healing. It doesn’t provide just temporary relief, it gives them an opportunity to keep their bodies active and focused.
NFL players aren’t just using cannabis as a pain reducer, but as a life-changing substance. As athletes, their bodies are their livelihood, and weed is helping not only reduce their pain, but helping them manage their sleep cycles and control they burden of anxiety they bear from being athletes of the highest caliber.
The same goes for athletes of all sports and disciplines.
Unfortunately, cannabis is still a banned substance in the NFL, but scientific breakthroughs and a contract renegotiation with the NFL Players Association could soon change that.
Cannabis May Someday be the NFL’s Saving Grace
Cannabidiol (CBD), the chemical compound found in marijuana that doesn’t produce psychoactive activity like THC, has been shown to combat one of football players’ biggest concerns, CTE.
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is brain disease that kills brain cells and is common among athletes who have to undergo constant brain trauma. It’s so common among NFL players that a recent study published in the New York Times claimed that of 111 NFL player’s brains examined, 110 had traces of the degenerative disease.
Currently, there is no treatment or cure for CTE. But almost a decade ago, scientists discovered that, when given to animals, CBD was shown to work as a neuroprotectant. Neuroprotection is an effect that protects, recovers, and sometimes even restores brain cells.
Though it’s still under considerable research, if CBD can also prove to be a neuroprotectant in humans, carefully administered forms of legal cannabis could potentially save football players from a life of brain degeneration. In fact, many athletes believe that using cannabis has protected their brains and anecdotally reference weed as the reason they haven’t received concussions.
As medicinal and recreational use of marijuana continues to spread across the country, the National Football League is inching its way toward allowing players to use cannabis as a pain manager. With a contract negotiation between the NFL and the Player’s Union due in a couple of years, it’s highly likely the NFL will consider un-banning weed as a substance its players can legally use. Many players believe that would have a huge positive impact on their health and the health of their teammates.
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