NFL Makes Huge Shift in Marijuana Policy

NFL Makes Huge Shift in Marijuana Policy

There’s no doubt that football is a dangerous sport. Players put themselves in physical danger every time they step out onto the gridiron. Unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, many players end up abusing prescription drugs to deal with the near-constant pain that accompanies on-the-field injuries.

Marijuana products, including CBD oil, have shown effectiveness in managing pain in a much safer manner than prescription drugs, but the National Football League (NFL) has long pushed back against even studying cannabis as a painkilling alternative. In a letter to the NFL Players Association (NFLPA), however, the organization seems to have softened its stance.

NFL Open to Cannabis Study for Pain Relief

The NFLPA was already performing their own research into marijuana’s potential to provide pain relief for NFL players. While it’s possible that their research yields significant findings into potential new ways to treat pain, there was little reason for players to be excited given the NFL’s firm opposition to the use of cannabis. After all, Eugene Monroe of the Baltimore Ravens was cut last year, in part, for merely voicing support for such research.

However, at the beginning of August, the league’s resistance to medical marijuana began to show cracks. In a letter to the NFLPA, top league officials reversed course and stated that they’re willing to work together to further cannabis research.

The executive vice president of communications at the NFL, Joe Lockhart, actually expressed excitement about working together with the NFLPA — a far cry from when NFL commissioner Robert Goodell claimed cannabis could be unsafe for players over the long run.

Prior Research Points the Way

The NFLPA didn’t immediately issue a statement on the NFL’s seemingly altered stance. And while the players union is involved in their own research, it’s not as if studies haven’t already shown pain relief benefits. Prior research has suggested that cannabidiol (CBD) and THC are effective at relieving some of the most difficult to treat pain.

Studies have also found that cannabis can reduce the frequency of migraine headaches and may be useful for treating traumatic brain injury (TBI). For football players, this is of paramount importance.

Headaches, Concussions, and Cannabis

Football players often take hard hits to the head, and this can lead to chronic headaches related to concussions. Unfortunately, that’s not all these concussions can cause. A recent study found that, of 111 NFL players’ brains that were studied, all but one suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (C.T.E.) — a degenerative brain condition that can cause depression, memory loss, confusion, and dementia.

C.T.E. is a progressive condition, and the resulting early onset dementia can result in death. However, promising research has shown that cannabis may be able to combat its effects. Researchers are currently in the process of developing CBD and other cannabinoids into a treatment for the brain cell death caused by concussions. Studies so far indicate that cannabinoids can prevent the damage on a chemical level.

A Move Towards the Cure

While the NFL and the players union may currently be focusing on using medical marijuana for pain management, there’s no doubt that the health benefits far exceed this goal. The use of cannabis is still controversial in America, but NFL officials’ change of direction on the issue signals that their regulation against the substance could soon be a thing of the past. Additional research will undoubtedly be necessary, but NFL players may eventually be utilizing cannabis to live longer, pain-free lives.