03 February 2022 |

NFL Grants $1 Million to Study Cannabis

By Kaitlin Domangue

Cannabis In The NFL

Breaking down the past, the present, and the future of cannabis in the NFL…

American Football star Ricky Williams said he wouldn’t [https://www.si.com/nfl/2021/07/06/ricky-williams-where-are-they-now-2021] have been a Heisman trophy winner without cannabis.

During his time, the NFL did not allow players to consume cannabis.

Williams believes he didn’t get inducted into the NFL’s Hall of Fame because he consumed cannabis. Williams missed two full seasons and was suspended five times due to his consumption of cannabis.

Players Stepping Up

Many professional athletes such as Rob Gronkowski [https://twitter.com/RobGronkowski?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor], Terrell Davis [https://twitter.com/Terrell_Davis], Marvin Washington, Joe Montana [https://twitter.com/joemontana?lang=en], and Brett Favre [https://twitter.com/brettfavre?lang=en] are among the NFL players who have either launched their own hemp company (CBD) or cannabis company (THC) or are collaborating with established companies in the space.

This is happening at the same time when many former & current NFL players are calling for greater reforms in the league when it comes to cannabis.]

Why Cannabis?

All professional athletes endure extreme wear and tear on the body.

It’s why retired NFL players use 4x the amount of painkillers as the general population, according to [https://medicine.wustl.edu/news/podcast/retired-nfl-players-using-painkillers/] Washington University School of Medicine.

The athletes we mentioned, and more, have long been calling for cannabis to be allowed in professional sports.

They believe it alleviates the physical pain and mental challenges that come with being an athlete, when consumed intentionally.

A Big Victory

The science shared, unwavering activism, and continued dialogue paid off.

The NFL announced a cannabinoid-research initiative last June and called for applications to be submitted. The winners receive a $1 million grant to study how cannabinoids affect pain management and neuroprotection.

Two teams of medical researchers, from the University of California San Diego and the University of Regina, were announced as the grant winners on February 1st. 106 applications were submitted.

Details About The NFL’s Studies

Drs. Thomas Marcotte and Mark Wallace and their colleagues of The University of California San Diego will lead “Effects of Cannabinoids on Pain and Recovery from Sports-Related Injuries in Elite Athletes: A Randomized Clinical Trial.”

THC, CBD, and combined THC/CBD will be the primary focuses of this study. Researchers will be looking at the adverse and therapeutic effects of these two cannabinoids for professional athletes

Athletes will vaporize cannabinoid treatments after a game-related injury, logging their results through an app

Dr. J Patrick Neary and researchers of The University of Regina will lead “Naturally Produced Cannabinoids for Pain Management and Neuroprotection from Concussion and Participation in Contact Sports.”

CBD and THC will be explored to determine whether they effectively manage pain and reduce the need for prescription medications, including opioids in athletes with post-concussion syndrome.

The neuroprotective properties of cannabinoids will also be assessed, to try and determine the severity or incidence of acute and chronic concussions — a problem plaguing the NFL.

The research team is made up of extraordinarily bright people, including cerebrovascular and neuro-physiologists, pharmacokinetics, clinical psychologists, and physicians

Pain Management

Pain management and neuroprotection are the focuses of the two studies, and research already exists pointing to the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids in these areas.

In a survey [https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/can.2017.0012] of 3,000 medical cannabis patients, 30% had used opioids within the last 6 months.

81% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that cannabis was more effective at managing their pain alone than in combination with opioids.

97% agreed or strongly agreed they could reduce their use of opioids when consuming medical cannabis.

Not to mention, the anecdotal responses about cannabis with 62% of medical cannabis patients consuming cannabis for chronic pain, per recent study [https://www.uspharmacist.com/article/medical-cannabis-for-chronic-pain], and thankfully we will now be able to gather additional data to increase our understanding of these benefits.

Neuroprotective Properties

The neuroprotective properties of cannabinoids have also been studied [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5938896/].

THC has been shown to protect the brain from symptoms of neurodegeneration in animal models with multiple sclerosis (MS) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Severity of tremors and spasticity has been shown to reduce when MS patients consume cannabis.

That said, such research isn’t as expansive as cannabis activists would hope, despite having a fantastic foundation of science to start with, it remains all too difficult to research cannabis in the U.S today thanks to federal restrictions for studying cannabis.

Funding is also hard to access, which is another reason why the NFL’s $1 million USD grant is a big deal.

Our Take

Slowly but surely change is coming.

It’s very exciting to see new cannabis research being conducted, and we will be watching this closely and report the study’s findings, which we expect won’t be made available for another year.

In addition to the pain management and neuroprotective properties of cannabis, we’d love to see additional research as to why athletes are choosing to consume cannabis while working out.