America’s longtime drug of choice could very well end up saving America’s longtime sport of choice.
The sport of football must find a solution (or solutions) to its concussion problem or risk becoming what boxing and horse racing are today — largely irrelevant despite a decades-long boom period in the United States.
More and more reports are saying that marijuana can — in a healthy way — help alleviate the pain that so many current and former football players experience. Not only can it help take away the pain from the daily nicks, bruises and bumps that players suffer from an opposing player’s helmet off the shin or a facemask in the forearm, it is also becoming increasingly clear that it can help treat CTE, a progressive degenerative disease in the brain caused by trauma.
Cannabidiol, one of over 100 chemical compounds founds in cannabis, is said to help stabilize the brain after injury.
“There may only be a few brain cells that are injured to the point of no return (during trauma),” Michael Hoffer, professor of otolaryngology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, told The Atlantic in December. “There are a lot of brain cells at risk right around those cells. If we can stabilize those we can prevent the dominos from falling.”
Pills vs. pot
Former Arizona Cardinals and Denver Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer has been at the forefront of a campaign called When the Bright Lights Fade which is raising money for a series of studies exploring how the use of cannabidiol can help treat and prevent the onset of symptoms associated with CTE.
“I’d say 80-90 percent of NFL players are on some kind of drug to get them through the pain and the stress and the anxiety of playing a full football season,” Plummer told Metro. “And when these players are done playing, I’d say 80-90 percent of them continue on high priced meds for most of the rest of their lives. Whether it’s cannabis or Percocets or whatever — there’s a lot of drugs in the league.”
Plummer is convinced that marijuana is infinitely more safe than the other pain relievers that players put into their bodies.
“It’s the healthiest option … that’s what we’d like people to understand," he said. "I know numerous guys who have smoked their whole career, and even some that fall into that 10-20 percent of guys that don’t take any drugs — except for cannabis.
“I think there’s more and more proof coming out that it’s a definite benefit. It’s obviously helping these players get through the season. When you put your body through that much pain and endure so many bumps and bruises you should be allowed to use a healthy, safe, non-addictive, non-toxic form of medicine, if you so choose.”
Marijuana remains one of the eight drugs banned by the NFL and has led to fines and suspensions for many of its players. Plummer claims that the NFL knows that marijuana is a healthier alternative to many prescription pain drugs, but that the league doesn’t want to take a PR hit for easing up on weed.
“We’re fighting a stigma [about marijuana] that started back in the 1930s,” Plummer said. “The NFL wants their players to be role models. They want their players to be what kids strive to be. So when you come out and say these players are using cannabis, they’re afraid that that’ll send the wrong message to these young kids that, ‘cannabis is good, you should use it. You should use it no matter what.’ But that’s not what we’re doing. We’re talking about grown adults that should have a choice in medicine, being allowed the freedom to choose it without punishment.
“There’s a hang-up with the NFL with their image, I believe, and they’re worried that they’ll be sending the wrong message to the youth that they’re continuously trying to keep interested in the game of football.”