The NFL and Medical Marijuana: One Should Adopt the Other

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard something
about concussions, traumatic brain injuries and the NFL in the news
lately. The topic has become heated after multiple NFL players have died
from conditions directly related to severe brain damage, also known as
chronic traumatic encephalopathy — which is often the result of years
spent taking hard hits during a football career.

In light of recent player
the NFL is revising many of its policies, including its 2010 Policy and
Program for Substance Abuse. As the door cracks open for the NFL to make
some necessary updates, many are wondering whether adopting medical
marijuana could be a smart move for the organization. The answer is yes,
and here’s why.

The NFL’s Current Policy and Program for Substance Abuse and its Shortcomings

According to the 2010 document, the NFL demands that any player who uses
medical marijuana will be suspended and forfeit play. While this
protocol used to enjoy a high level of support, that support has wavered
significantly in recent months.

Here’s why: obviously, NFL players get hurt. When you have dozens of big
men on a field running at one another full-speed with their heads down,
that’s bound to happen. Unfortunately, the NFL’s current policies limit
many of the treatment options players can use to alleviate the pain
associated with their injuries. This is one of the reasons that 90
percent of NFL players continue to suffer chronic pain even when they
aren’t playing.

In an attempt to cope with their injuries, many players turn to
prescription painkillers. Unfortunately, certain types of painkillers
can be highly addictive and the NFL has seen a dramatic increase in the
abuse of opioid-based painkillers in recent years. Fortunately, there’s
a better way.

The Case for Cannabis: How Medical Marijuana can Help NFL Players Cope

While the NFL has been busy imposing strict limitations on its players
through the Policy and Program for Substance Abuse, it has missed
noticing a highly effective, natural treatment that doesn’t pose the
addiction or abuse risks of opioid-based painkillers. This treatment is
medical marijuana.

Medical marijuana has been used for centuries to treat things like
and eating
Medical marijuana compounds are safe and non-addictive and they have the
potential to revolutionize the way the NFL deals with injuries.

Cannabis works just as well — if not better — than many pharmaceutical
treatments, without all of the dangerous side effects. For example,
studies have shown that cannabis works as well as
for various
musculoskeletal injuries. As a bonus, the administration of medical
cannabis actually makes small amounts of opiates more
, so NFL players
who need supplemental care can take less of their prescription
painkillers and still achieve the same result. NFL players are currently
addicted to opioids at nearly four times the

of the general population and, if adopted by the NFL, medical marijuana
stands a chance to help reduce those numbers.

The effects of cannabis don’t stop with muscle pain though. It’s also a
powerful anti-inflammatory agent that can help decrease the currently
rampant use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs) such as
ibuprofen and Toradol (an NSAID that thins the blood and drastically
increases the risk of head injuries) within the NFL. Excess use of
NSAIDs is currently tied to such dire outcomes as kidney failure and
pronounced liver damage, as was seen in former Seattle Seahawks safety
Kenny Easley, who sued the NFL before undergoing a kidney transplant

It’s clear that the traditional symptom-management methods used by the
NFL just aren’t cutting it. In addition to presenting a whole host of
unsafe side effects, many of these drugs simply aren’t that effective.
Because of this, medical cannabis has emerged as a much safer and more
efficient alternative.

The Neuroprotective Qualities of Cannabis: How Medical Marijuana Protects the Brain

One of the most common injuries NFL players face is concussions and,
currently, there’s no real way to protect players’ brains — aside from
helmets. If the NFL was to adopt medical marijuana, however, players
would have access to something that no drug on the market offers:

For decades, cannabis has been shown to offer significant
, which could
protect players from the damaging consequences of concussions.
Additionally, when medical marijuana is used, it stimulates the body’s
endocannabinoid system (ECS), which has been shown to decrease the
associated with
traumatic brain injuries (TBI). This can help keep NFL players healthy
throughout their careers.

Finally, cannabis stimulates the central nervous system (CNS) in a way
that has been shown to fight the development of Parkinson’s disease,
Alzheimer’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which
currently affect NFL players at rates several times higher than the rest
of the population.

The Verdict: What is the NFL Waiting for?

If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering why the NFL hasn’t already
adopted medical marijuana. That’s a great question. Thanks to all the
in-depth research proving that marijuana is a safe and effective
alternative to opioids and NSAIDs, it seems obvious that the
organization would have embraced it years ago. Unfortunately, that’s not
the case.

While adopting medical marijuana would help the NFL protect the health
and safety of its players, it’s likely that we won’t see players
ingesting edibles anytime soon. The reason boils down to red tape and
stigma associated with cannabis. While it may be years before the NFL
embraces medical cannabis, it’s clear that this simple treatment can
largely replace dangerous, addictive pharmaceuticals and keep players
safer and healthier.

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