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The stats on CBD use among pro athletes are not hard and fast. However, it seems that the vast majority of pro athletes are warming up to the idea.
A recent ESPN survey revealed that 71% of NFL players prefer using CBD for the treatment of chronic pain. Unfortunately, this means nothing for the players unless they are backed by their professional bodies.
Quoting one anonymous NFL player, “weed is legal where I live but illegal where I work.”
So, what’s the true picture of major sports leagues take on CBD?
- The World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) and the US Anti Doping Agency (USADA) allow CBD use.
- The major sports leagues are yet to allow CBD use. However, the National Hockey League (NHL) and Major League Baseball (MLB) have “tolerant” CBD policies.
- Concerns have been raised about the lack of sufficient data on the long-term effects of CBD use
- A significant number of pro athletes are using CBD
2017 was a milestone year for the burgeoning CBD industry, as the World Anti-Doping Agency moved to remove cannabidiol (CBD) from their list of prohibited substances. Athletes claim that CBD helps them deal with pain and anxiety.
Why is Marijuana not Allowed in Pro Sports?
This has to do with the association of marijuana with “performance-enhancing drugs.” This further explains why CBD remains illegal for athletes even in states where it has been legalized by the state.
For professional sports, anything that is ingested in and out of the field is heavily regulated. Athletes found contravening the law on these grounds are likely to be banned from professional sports, penalized or suspended. The rules will vary depending on the particular sport.
Cliff Robinson, a former Blazers player was suspended three times for marijuana use during his eighteen-year sports career. After leaving the NBA, he went on to become a strong proponent of cannabis legalization.
Athletes are turning to CBD for various reasons. One of the “top of the list” reasons is pain management. Previously, opioids have been used to manage pain. However, this has raised concerns following the opioid overdose crisis that took the US by storm.
A study conducted by Washington University School of medicine in 2011 showed that over 50% of athletes use opioids during their NFL careers. Of this number, 72% reported abusing opioids.
Pro athletes also use CBD for other symptoms such as:
- Poor appetite
It appears that pro athletes are taking to CBD once they are done with their active sports careers. This is happening at an alarming rate.
In this YouTube video, former NFL player Kyle Turley speaks out about using cannabis to relieve post-concussion symptoms.
Would Kylie have benefited more if he began using cannabis earlier in the game?
For now, it’s hard to tell.
Here are the Major Pro Sports leagues in the US
- National Football league
- National Baseball association
- Major league baseball
- National Hockey league
Professional Sports Take On CBD
A few years back it would have been taboo to place pro sports and cannabis in one sentence. Not anymore!
It appears that the move by WADA in 2017 inspired professional sports organizations to rescind their hard stance on CBD. Here is a breakdown of where the top organizations stand.
Let's break the ice with the regulators first: WADA and NCAA
WADA’s Take On CBD
The World Anti-Doping Agency sets the pace for professional sports, at least when it comes to the regulation of drugs. In September 2017, WADA removed cannabidiol from the list of prohibited substances for 2018. This Okayed it for athletes to use CBD without fear of reprimand. WADA has an influence over professional sports in the US and this move had a trickledown effect on other professional sports bodies.
NCAA’s Take On CBD
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is one of the largest sports organizations in the US. It oversees more than 1000 athletic institutions and organizations. It also has a reputation for having very strict marijuana laws. For the NCAA, CBD is a no-go zone as it is “chemically-related” to THC, a substance on their banned list.
NFL’s Take On CBD
The National Football League has not allowed the use of CBD for its players.
Football players are among the worst hit when it comes to sporting injuries such as sprains, fractures, and concussions. This has made them very vulnerable to abusing pain killers and they are at high risk for opioid dependence and addiction. Consequently, several EX NFL players are rooting for CBD acceptance in the NFL.
NBA’s Take On CBD
The National Basketball Association has not allowed the use of CBD for its players.
NBA players undergo random testing four times each year during the regular season. Should a player test positive twice for THC, they are subjected to a fine of $25,000. Consequent violations result in suspensions from the game in multiples of five-game suspensions.
However, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel. Speaking to Yahoo! Sports, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver revealed that “conversations are happening” around changes in policy on cannabis.
MLB’s Take On CBD
Major League Baseball has been one of the most progressive athlete organizations in the US. As it is, MLB players are only tested for marijuana when there is a suspicion of drug abuse.
Things changed for the better towards the end of 2019.
Henceforth, marijuana abuse will be treated in the same way as alcohol abuse. Players who test positive will be referred for voluntary treatment.
NHL’s Take On CBD
The National Hockey League has progressive cannabis rules. Players are not punished when they test positive for high levels of THC. Instead, they are sent for treatment and rehabilitation. Their goal is geared towards “identifying those who need help and offering them help.”
Why Are Athletes Warming Up To CBD?
Athletes are under constant physical stress that exposes their bodies to injuries such as fractures and concussions. This triggers inflammation and severe pain.
Competitive sports also come with constant adrenalin surge, the pressure to perform, and high levels of anxiety. All these factors contribute to the need to be on medication for different reasons
Research has shown that CBD can offer numerous therapeutic benefits for athletes. This includes:
- Pain control
- Anxiety relief
- Antidepressant benefits
- Anti-inflammatory effects
- Improves sleep
- Promotes muscle recovery post-workout
- Improves concussion symptoms
Unlike pharmaceutical drugs such as opioids and antidepressants, CBD does not cause dependence, addiction or severe side effects.
That wraps up our discussion on major sports leagues and their take on CBD use.