This past week, Baltimore Ravens player, Eugene Monroe, donated $80,000 to fund marijuana research at the University of Pennsylvania and John Hopkins University. Monroe, as well as some former players, has long been vocal that the NFL’s policies towards marijuana need reform, but will they listen?
In March, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell made it clear that he had no intention changing the marijuana policy stating, “I don’t distinguish between the medical marijuana and marijuana.” Goodall has also acknowledged the increased research into medical marijuana, but says the findings are not yet significant enough to change his mind or the mind of the committee.
Monroe supports the use of medical marijuana in the treatment of chronic pain for himself and his fellow players. “Your job automatically gives you the symptom of chronic pain,” said Monroe of football. The constant soreness and pain has led many players, including Monroe himself, to seek out non-inflammatory medications and opioids to help manage his pain, but Monroe is well aware of the possibility of addiction and overdose that comes with opioid use. “Opioids are ruining lives across the country, and as athletes we’re not immune to those perils,” said Monroe in an interview to philly.com.
In 2015, a class action law suit was brought against the NFL because 13 plaintiffs are accusing NFL teams of pushing opioids on players to keep them on the field playing despite pain or injuries. Many players, like Monroe, think there is a better solution to dealing with the chronic pain, marijuana. Monroe is the first active player in the NFL to take such a public stand and he knows that there are potentially long term consequences, "This is an issue that goes beyond any personal career implications. I understand why other players may be adverse to speaking out, but our health is worth it.”
At the 2016 NFL Draft, the Baltimore Ravens, the same team Monroe is a member of, removed Ole Miss player Laremy Tunsil from their prospect list after a video of him smoking marijuana surfacedon the day of the draft. Former Denver Broncos player Nate Jackson admitted that he medicated with cannabis all throughout his football career from 2003 to 2008. Though other former players have come forward, the numbers are small due to the fact that marijuana use in the NFL could be career ending.
The donation, which was routed through a Colorado-based nonprofit called Realm of Caring, will go to new research focused on the effects of cannabis on pain and brain injuries specifically in football players. Researcher Marcel Bon-Miller of the University of Pennsylvania said of the upcoming research with Monroe’s donation, "We'll be examining both current and retired NFL players to understand the impact of cannabis or cannabinoid use on recovering from injury."
Cannabis has been proven in many studies to be extremely effective in treating chronic pain as well as opioids, without many of the negative side effects. Cannabis has shown to be as effective as codeine in certain situations in treating pain. A recent study in Massachusetts showed tremendous success for patients using cannabis in the place of opioids. Dr. Gary Witman of Cana Care Docs, who administered the study, said, “As soon as we can get people off opioids to a nonaddicting substance — and medicinal marijuana is nonaddicting — I think it would dramatically impact the amount of opioid deaths.” Witman treated 80 patients who were addicted to opioids, muscle relaxers, or anti-anxiety medications with marijuana, 75 of the patients stopped taking their original medications in place of cannabis because it alleviated their symptoms.
Cannabis has also been shown to have amazing neuroprotective qualities that could decrease the consequences of concussions, one of the largest dangers facing NFL players. Marijuana stimulates the endocannabinoid system in the body, which has been seen to decrease the consequences of traumatic brain injuries.
Monroe’s contribution to medical marijuana research could save the lives of many of his fellow players if it proves persuasive enough for the NFL to take notice. The NFL claims they still need more research, so the research funded by Monroe research will provide new hope in the form of football focused cannabis research.