Fitness & Nutrition

The Benefits and Uses of CBD for Football Players

By Harris Wheless
Riley McCullough

Policies regarding the use of cannabis products in professional sports have undergone a lot of change in recent years. With the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill in December, hemp production was legalized federally. As a result, hemp extracts like CBD continued to take off across the country.

While CBD-based products rapidly gained a foothold in the consumer market, they also became popular with athletes as an alternative treatment for some exercise-induced symptoms. Some sports leagues that previously had complicated stances on medical cannabis have been more receptive of the new trend. If you’re a football player or a fan curious about the sport’s current relationship with CBD, here’s what you need to know.

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a compound found within cannabis plants that has become a popular wellness supplement with the potential to elicit certain health benefits. CBD interacts with your body’s endocannabinoid system, which helps regulate things like appetite, anxiety, mood, and pain.

CBD is one of a class of cannabinoids that also includes THC, the compound that gives marijuana its psychoactive properties. Unlike marijuana, CBD products don’t create a high. This is because they are derived from hemp, a form of cannabis with much lower THC levels.

What’s the status of CBD in the sports world?

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) removed CBD from its list of banned substances, a move which took effect at the beginning of 2018. Several major American sports leagues followed suit and changed their policies that same year. The NHL, MLB, and PGA Tour have made strides in the past few years towards more favorable stances on cannabis use.

The NFL and NBA, on the other hand, along with other leagues for those same sports, have maintained a higher level of punitive action for those found using cannabis-derived substances.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has been resistant to medical cannabis use. But increased pressure from players and others in the league may bring about some change. In 2017, a lawsuit was filed by 1,800 current and former NFL players against the league for violating federal drug laws by encouraging misuse of painkillers, resulting in high rates of opioid addiction among former players.

Although the NFL continues to test players for THC and CBD, this policy may change after renegotiation of league contractual terms in 2020. The kind of disciplinary action taken against student athletes found to be using marijuana is also changing. In 2014, the NCAA announced it would reduce the penalty for a positive marijuana test from a year to six months. And as cannabis laws change around the country, there may be more shifts in policy by sports leagues.

How can CBD help?

Football, regardless of what level it’s being played at, is an extremely physically demanding and dangerous sport. Injuries are common for both professional and amateur players. These commonly include knee ligament injuries, foot and ankle injuries, shoulder injuries, shin splints, torn muscles, and head injuries.

It probably comes as no surprise to hear that head and brain traumas are the most serious form of injury football players face, and also among the most common. Fortunately, there has been increased attention given to concussion treatment and prevention in football in the past several years.

A brain injury can shorten a player’s career and lead to long-term problems down the line. The sport is still reckoning with how to handle these issues. In 2017, a study found that 110 out of the 111 former professional football players whose families donated their brains for study had a degenerative brain disease known as CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). Players are often at risk for other serious conditions as well.

CBD offers a range of health benefits and can be a viable option for many of these issues. It can act as a pain reliever or anti-inflammatory aid for athletes who suffer from chronic pain. In addition to its pain management properties, research indicates CBD could help those who suffer from depression or anxiety.

The cannabinoid has also shown promise in providing neuroprotection which may be instrumental in preventing brain-related injuries and degenerative diseases in football players. CBD may also prove to be a valid addiction treatment for some people due to its ability to reduce pain, anxiety, and other symptoms associated with drug addiction. It may also be able to act as a substitute for opioids. The two kinds of substances both interact with receptors in the brain that relate to pain, behavior, and addiction.

Despite its wide variety of health benefits, self-medicating with CBD should not be used as a substitute for other doctor-approved forms of treatment without discussing it with your physician first. If you have a serious medical condition, it’s important to have an open dialogue with your doctor about how best to treat it. Be sure to seek advice before trying CBD. And if you use an existing medication, talk to your doctor about possible drug-on-drug interactions.

How to find the right product

As state and nationwide policies shift and CBD gets taken off the banned substances lists by major sports leagues, more widespread acceptance of cannabis use by athletes may develop. But as things stand now, CBD has yet to be approved by the FDA to treat, cure, or prevent disease.

Because of the lack of regulation, it’s vital that consumers do research and gain a solid understanding of the market and the products they choose to take. The best brands invest in third party testing and take precautions so they know what’s on the label is reflected in the contents of the product.

Do some reading about application method and dosage, and find the best CBD oil, CBD creams, or CBD gummies for you. Pay attention to whether a product is full-spectrum or CBD isolate, and how much THC it contains. Although testing positive in a drug screening after taking CBD is unlikely, seeking out the right product from a reputable brand will put you more at ease. If you do your due diligence before buying, you’re more likely to experience the relief you are looking for.

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