Professional athletes are coming out in stronger numbers to take a stand for their health. With mounting evidence that cannabis can help with faster muscle recovery after a workout, assist in pain management for sore muscles, or contribute to faster overall healing, cannabis-based sports medicine is a no-brainer.

One does however require dependable brain capacity to understand why major league sports officials are not promoting or even supporting cannabis sports medicine. The NFL is under severe duress, attempting to shield the organization from a media blitz of exposure alleging that members of the league have been concealing evidence linking repeated head trauma experienced by football players with terminal brain damage called chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE. CTE can only be identified affirmatively at this time posthumously, so scientists have been reliant on available specimens to investigate the disease.

In a recent Boston University study, researchers evaluated cadavers of former football players whose bodies were donated. The researchers reported some shocking news: 96% of 91 test subjects exhibited signs of CTE. The good news is that studies are pointing toward cannabis as a neuro-protectant treatment for brain trauma that could prevent or treat CTE. The bad news is that the NFL prohibits players from consuming cannabis and includes THC in their mandatory drug testing panel.

The US is experiencing epidemic rates of opioid abuse. Professional athletes are at high risk to become one of these many casualties. In a study of NFL players, researchers found that current opioid use in the NFL is 3 times the rate of the general populace with a remarkable 71% reporting misuse. These professional athletes make a living dependent on the health and stamina of their physical assets. They must be in top form, and in order to get paid, they need to be on the field, ready for action.

During the 2016 Southern California Cannabis Conference, numerous professional athletes came out in support of cannabis sports medicine. Many shared emotional concerns about how pharmaceuticals have affected their own lives and those of their fellow players. “Gotta pay the piper eventually,” expressed former NFL player Marvin Washington. “A lot of my peers are damaged by the pharmaceutical treatment currently offered by the NFL doctors. There’s a culture of ‘play through the pain.’ If the NFL gets behind CBD and cannabis, everyone has a major potential to benefit. The onus is on the NFL union to come forward in support of the healthier alternative to opioids and pharmaceutical anti-inflammatories that is found in the  cannabis plant.”

Mr. Washington credits the Schedule 1 status of cannabis as the motive for the NFL’s ban on what could be a life-saving agent, cannabis. Skeptics suggest that pharmaceutical companies have a stronghold on the NFL and that the alcohol sponsors are a major conflict of interest for the league. Just last year, NFL players filed a suit against the NFL alleging negligence and that they were plied with pain-killers to keep them on the field, jeopardizing their health. The case was dismissed on grounds that labor law and the league’s collective bargaining agreement pre-empted legal action.

Dr. David Tonkin spoke alongside Marvin Washington at the expo, providing expert insights from the standpoint of a pain management specialist. Dr. Tonkin is promoting what he believes to be extraordinary results of cannabis medication in his own practice. Dr. Tonkin emphasized that “anti-inflammatories should not be taken more than 3 times per week; some of these players are taking several of them every day for a year.” This can be detrimental to the liver, he explained. “We also need to better train our medical staff in the US. Physicians are over-prescribing opioids in general, and the doctors treating pro athletes have likely received only 12 hours of education pertaining to writing prescriptions for pain meds. We’re seeing far too many deaths in US from legally-obtained opioid prescriptions.”

Former baseball player Josh Kinney supported this sentiment, “We have to take meds to stay on the field, but then worries about the long term effects of those pharmaceuticals becomes a part of your job. Is there a safer alternative to keep players on the field and manage pain? Yes, cannabis. Football is focused on trauma but what about baseball players with destroyed livers? I’m very excited to be and part of this movement to bring safer solutions to professional sports medicine.” It is worth mentioning that MLB doesn’t fine their players when they test positive for the marijuana cannabinoid THC.

These players have shown bravery in taking a stand for this cause despite the global stigma. This is especially evident in the case of Eugene Monroe, the first active NFL player to speak out as an advocate for cannabis sports medicine. While nursing an injury sustained as a member of the Ravens, Monroe wrote an article published in The Players Tribune directed toward the NFL calling for 3 actions: remove marijuana from banned substances, fund medicinal research, and stop over-prescribing harmful, addictive opioids. Eugene donated $80,000 of his own funds to medical research, and created a website to raise awareness.

Terren Jones, founder of Purpman Farms cannabis concentrate, played with both the Titans and the Falcons and is also an advocate for cannabis sports medicine. He made a choice to protect his health and didn’t back down. “I started playing football in middle school – that’s 20 years of repeated impact by the time a player hits the NFL. Even un-drafted, I’m always trying to be my best. Be assured, I’m a hard worker. The doctors tried to sell me on pharmaceuticals, but I know better. I would rather be healthy and live a happy life than have the money at that cost.” Eugene Monroe showed his support for Terren’s stance, “Terren offers a real and raw perspective. If he didn’t speak on this topic it would have gone unheard.”

Eben Britton, former NFL offensive lineman played a total of six seasons of pro American football with the Jaguars and the Bears. In addition to devoting time to his family, Eben is now a cannabis sports medicine advocate and contributing writer to cannabis publications such as and High Times. On the subject of opioids, Eben was quite graphic, “Anything that makes you pass blood, think twice. Cannabis didn’t do that. Pharmaceuticals made me irritable, sleepless. Cannabis on the other hand put me in a state of healing, instead of being gacked out like I felt on Vicodin.  Cannabis is a healthier choice.”  

Thanks to the fine work of these activists, in the next 10 years, we project that cannabis sports medicine will be a successful vertical for the cannabis industry with a range of products including topical applications to reduce inflammation and pain, oral supplements of cannabis oil, and living water infused with CBD.  One such product from Gridiron, living alkaline blackwater that includes fulvic and humic acids, minerals, electrolytes, and CBD is tantamount to Gatorade on steroids.  We suspect pro athletes will be drinking it by the gallon for optimal overall health.  

One of the reasons that entrepreneurs are pushing so hard to influence the NFL is the credibility that a pro sports endorsement can bring to the cannabis industry.  Science has shown the immense healing properties of the cannabis plant, once the pro sports industry is on board, the US consumer-base will follow suit.  According to Grand View Research, the global sports medicine industry was valued at $6 billion in 2015 and sales of sports medicine products could reach $11 billion USD by 2024.  The cannabis companies that secure the pro sports sponsorship’s are going to enjoy a nice slice of that pie.

Another reason to root for cannabis sports medicine is the marketing potential.  The International Journal of advertising reports that alcohol ad spending reached $550 million in 2011. Bud Light ad Miller Light hold two of the slots for top spenders in TV sports advertising for that year.  Blue chip companies are spending upwards of $400 million in the sports media category.  Once cannabis is legal, presupposing that cannabis marketing will also be legal, sports enthusiasts would likely be a lucrative target for cannabis sports medicine product sales. The NBA is now allowing advertising sponsorships to be displayed on jerseys. We look forward to seeing cannabis company sponsorship’s on NFL jerseys in the near future.

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