The American Academy of Neurology recently released a study that shows more than 40% of retired NFL players have some sort of traumatic brain injury. Football always has, and always will, be known as an extremely competitive contact sport. It is the sport that most kids have to argue with their mother to get permission to play. It is also one of the most popular sports in the United States. Meaning, becoming a professional football player takes a lot of time and hard work.
This sport puts a lot of wear and tear on any person tough enough to make their way to the NFL. The recent studies, like the one above, shows a big correlation to the heavy contact in football to several serious injuries. For years, the NFL has prided themselves on providing their players with top notch safety and health care available. With the legalization of medical marijuana spreading across the nation, the NFL now has to question if the use of medical marijuana could benefit their players. This has brought about a serious debate amongst the National Football League and the National Football League Players Association.
The NFLPA has been fighting to get the NFL to recognize the medical uses of marijuana for a while. In 2014, the NFLPA came to an agreement with the NFL to raise the amount of THC allowed in a player’s system, from 15 nanograms to 35 nanograms. While this was a move in the right direction, the NFLPA is still looking for more cooperation from the NFL.
The Player’s Association’s new proposal looks to make the punishments for failing a drug test for marijuana less punitive. They would like the NFL to look at testing as a way to find players who are in need of treatment for addiction, along with players who suffer from chronic pain. The NFLPA does not talk about full legalized use of medical marijuana. They are asking that the league recognizes the medical purpose of marijuana and that the punishments are less serious.
The National Football League is not completely opposed to the possible medical opportunities of marijuana. They have stated multiple times that if their medical experts tell them that marijuana can truly benefit the players, then they would consider its use in the league. The NFL’s main opposition is that they have not seen enough studies to persuade them to use medical marijuana in the league. They also have an obligation as a national league to follow federal laws. Even though nearly 22 out of the 32 NFL teams reside in states the legalized medical marijuana, the NFL needs to be careful they are following federal guidelines.
The Need For Medical Marijuana in the NFL
The use of medical marijuana is becoming a wide spread treatment for many different things. Medical marijuana is most well known for its treatment of cancer. As the cannabis industry continues to spread across the nation, the amount of research going into medical marijuana is growing drastically. There are now studies that show cannabis has the medical qualities to help treat anything from chronic pain to diabetes. The NFL players could use medical marijuana for a variety of reasons.
As I already stated, “more than 40% of retired NFL players suffer from traumatic brain injuries.” These brain injuries lead to a multitude of different conditions. Ranging from severe depression, dementia, severe migraines, and even Alzheimers. Most of these injuries are treated with a heavy amount of prescribed medication. A lot of times, leading to other long term health risks and even addictions. This is why a lot of retired NFL players are speaking out in favor of medical marijuana.
Not to mention that if the league decides to limit the punishments of testing positive for THC, then the there will be fewer players missing games and paying fines. A majority of the owners, particularly Jerry Jones, are for the use of medical marijuana in the league. They would like to stop having players suspended for nearly full seasons due to failing drug tests for marijuana.
The Studies of Medical Marijuana
Traumatic brain injuries are one the main long term injuries involved with professional football. The main cause of this is due to the head trauma and concussions that occur consistently in football. NFL players are used to battling the pain and pushing through. A lot of times this takes a ton pain pills and the mental strength to ignore the constant pain. Medical marijuana is a possible natural method of treating pain that could drastically benefit NFL players.
The main components of medical marijuana, at the moment, are THC and CBD. THC is typically used as a sleep aid, antidepressant, and to treat chronic pain. CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that has been found to have a variety of different medical purposes. CBD mainly acts as a pain relief for a multitude of symptoms. The NFL is looking more into CBD options rather than THC.
One of the noticeable causes of Alzheimer’s is the build up of amyloid clumps in the brain. These clumps cause inflammation in the brain which leads to long term damage. A recent study shows that a combination of THC and CBD has the ability to remove the amyloid clumps. More studies need to be done, but this is a possible start to finding natural treatments for Alzheimer’s. Medical Marijuana has also been found to be a strong anti-inflammatory in general. Meaning at the least, cannabis is great for slowing down the damage caused by Alzheimer’s.
A lot of retired NFL players suffer from extreme body pain and headaches. It is common for football players to suffer from extreme migraines due to the constant head trauma. In 2015 there were nearly 182 reported concussions in the regular season. This is a 58% increase from 2014. Football players endure a high amount of concussions. This is found to be the leading cause of migraines in retired NFL Players. A recent study on the effects of marijuana on migraines shows that CBD can limit the frequency of migraines and help with the pain involved.
Ebenezer Ekuban, a retired defensive line in the NFL for nine years, is a strong proponent of using medical cannabis in the NFL. “Everyday I wake up in pain, from my ankles to my neck. It is part of the territory. I know what I signed up for.” Ekuban has been retired for years, and throughout time his pain did not fade. Even with a wide range of pain killers, he was prescribed, the pain was always there. Ekuban was not somebody to use “drugs,” but when he began to look into marijuana, he decided it was worth a try. Ekuban is now a consistent user of CBD Oil. “It hasn’t taken everything away, but it has helped significantly.”
Eugen Monroe is a lead activist in getting medical marijuana in the NFL. Monroe was the first active NFL player to push for the use of medical marijuana. Three weeks after he spoke out, Monroe was released from the Baltimore Ravens. “The pain is never going away. My body is damaged. I have to manage it somehow. Managing it with pills was slowly killing me. Now I am able to function and be extremely efficient by figuring out how to use different formulations of cannabis.”
The debate over marijuana in the NFL is far from being over. The players and the league have a long way to go to reach a reasonable agreement. We can expect to see more science and research going into medical marijuana and its potential for NFL players. As the legalization of cannabis continues to spread, we are sure to see more and more debates arising.