Why NFL Players Are Fighting for CBD

Why NFL Players Are Fighting for CBD

Health and Fitness

Why NFL Players Are Fighting for CBD


CBD has become enormously popular, with people from all walks of life using it to better their health. There is one group of people who often cannot use cannabidiol or cannabinoids of any kind: Athletes.

Most sporting organizations don’t allow the use of cannabidiol for a variety of reasons. This is despite the fact that CBD is non-intoxicating and wouldn’t impact performance too much. If anything, it may calm athletes down before a big performance.

So, why is it that organizations like the NFL don’t allow CBD? For a growing number of players, the ban on CBD is unfortunate; many are fighting for change. In this article, we take a look at how CBD in the NFL could be a good thing.

How CBD Could Help Football Players

Nov 23, 2020; Tampa, Florida, USA; Los Angeles Rams outside linebacker Samson Ebukam (50) and free safety John Johnson (43) celebrate during the fourth quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Cannabidiol, or CBD as it is more commonly known, is an active compound found in cannabis plants. It has found fame as a wellness supplement, helping people to improve and maintain overall wellbeing.

It was discovered just decades ago when scientists isolated it from the cannabis plant, and studies on it have only just begun. Progress is slow due to restrictions on cultivating and harvesting cannabis. As a result, many organizations are reluctant to allow players to use CBD, since so little is known about its effects – especially in the long-term. The World Health Organization states that it is safe and has little potential for addiction, which suggests it could offer some great positives for those who use it.

Its low risk of addiction lies in stark contrast with opioids, which are common in the NFL. Football players are at high risk of injury, with over 26% of players admitting to opioid use in the previous 30 days.

Despite the highly addictive nature of opiates, many doctors prescribe them to athletes as a way to get around the pain of a high contact sport. Sadly, they can have deleterious effects. This is where CBD comes in; according to studies such as this one from Frontiers in Pharmacology in 2018, cannabinoids can help with pain management. The authors also mention that CBD has very few short-term side effects.

What’s more, a significant study from 2017 found that, of 202 former football players who had donated their brains to science, 90% had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease. According to some research, CBD has neuroprotective effects. While it’s unlikely that CBD can do away with CTE in such a high-contact sport altogether, the research suggests that it could help those suffering from it to live a better life.

What’s the NFL’s Current Stance on CBD

Nov 22, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) runs with the ball in the fourth quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

With positive effects on pain and the brain, there is a lot of potential for CBD in the NFL. What’s more, there are lots of ways to use CBD thanks to a growing number of CBD products. Players could be using CBD topicals, for example, to treat muscle soreness, and this would have no effect on the brain.

CBD oil in the NFL, however, is banned. One such reason for this is the rocky status of cannabis in the US. Several states allow recreational weed, and many more allow medical marijuana. Of course, there’s no chance of the NFL allowing its players to smoke weed before a match – it would be dangerous, to say the least. Federally, cannabis is still illegal, putting the NFL in a tricky position.

That said, CBD is no longer a controlled substance on a federal level. In theory, this means that NFL players could use it. So, why is it still banned?

The NFL Players Association’s Pain Management Committee said that “The level of [CBD’s] use in the United States outpaces the level of research at this point.” In other words, the NFL does not see adequate research on CBD to allow its players to use it.

It’s a fair point, but anecdotal evidence from retired players does show some hope for the future.

The NFL Players Who Are Arguing for CBD

The NFL and CBD may currently be at odds, but some players are fighting for a change. Those currently playing in the NFL have to be careful, despite the fact that the league has said it will no longer suspend players who test positive for THC after using CBD products. As a result, the most vocal football players in this arena are retired.

Most famously, Terrell Davis, a two-time Super Bowl champion with the Denver Broncos, is speaking up about his belief in CBD. Others are joining him, including Jake Plummer, Ricky Williams, Rick Upchurch, and more.

With so many voices arguing for CBD, the NFL might just have to listen. However, until more research has taken place, it’s difficult to say what the final verdict will be. It’s unlikely that the NFL will explicitly allow CBD, but stopping the punishment of players who use it in place of opioids might just be enough.

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