NFL, Marijuana and Pain

NFL, Marijuana and Pain

By Ed Coghlan

As Super Bowl 50 approaches, the NFL is preparing its biggest event.

National Pain Report readers might be asking, “What does the NFL have to do with chronic pain?”

Right question to ask.

The answer might be “a lot.”

HBO’s Real Sports aired a story this week by Andrea Kremer that discussed how marijuana is increasingly becoming a primary weapon for players in their fight against pain.

Pro football is a collision sport—and its players spend much of the week after a game just healing up—so they can collide again the next Sunday, or Monday or Thursday.

Pain is a constant.

The NFL will tell you that marijuana is forbidden. NFL Chief Counsel Adolpho Birch made the case again to HBO that players aren’t supposed to use it.

Former Denver Broncos tight end Nate Jackson spent six years in the league and he estimated that at least half the players smoke pot to deal with pain and brain injury (concussion) issues.

“I weeded as needed,” he said. “It offers relief. I don’t know why. I don’t hurt as much when I use it.”

Former Minnesota punter Chris Kluwe told Kremer that more and more younger players in the league are using marijuana to counteract pain after seeing what opiates like Vicodin have done to older players in the league.

“Pain pills weren’t good for me,” said former Bronco Jackson. “They made me feel like s—. They made me sad.”

While there is still no medical research being done on marijuana and pain in the United States (because marijuana is still “illegal” by federal definition), the Israeli doctor who has been studying marijuana for 50 years thinks that should change.

Dr. Raphael Mechoulam of Hebrew University told Kremer that doctors around the world use marijuana to treat chronic pain.

“Opiates are strong and addictive and there’s the potential of addiction,” he said.

Researchers indicate that painkiller abuse in the NFL is common because painkillers are easy to get. The NFL says it has tried to limit access and urges player to see their own doctors for what Birch called “pain management.”

While the NFL continues to articulate a hard line about marijuana, there doesn’t appear to be much interest in pursuing players who smoke. If Jackson is right and more than half of the players are smoking, that might be a reason.

But publicly the NFL, which could be leading on this issue, says to marijuana advocates, “show us when you have something.”

In 2015, A Canadian research team led by Dr. Mark Ware from the Research Institute of Canada’s  McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) in Montréal completed a national multi-center study looking at the safety of medical cannabis use among patients suffering from chronic pain. They found that patients with chronic pain who used cannabis daily for one year, when carefully monitored, did not have an increase in serious adverse events compared to pain patients who did not use cannabis.

“This is the first and largest study of the long term safety of medical cannabis use by patients suffering from chronic pain ever conducted,” says Dr. Ware. “We found that medical cannabis, when used by patients who are experienced users, and as part of a monitored treatment program for chronic pain over one year, appears to have a reasonable safety profile.”

What may move the NFL toward dropping its ban against marijuana is other research—which is being performed in Israel by Dr. Mechoulam.

They are finding in research with mice that marijuana can help the brain heal from injury. There is no medicine that is used successfully to treat concussion effects.

The NFL’s concern about concussions and their long-term damage—which some believe is an existential threat to the sport—might get them moving.

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Authored by: Ed Coghlan

There are 5 comments for this article
  1. Kristine (Krissy) at 4:52 pm

    MMj without TCH, or using pure CBD oil eliminates phycho quaility. Did I really have to say that?

  2. Christine at 1:51 pm

    For my chronic back pain/intense stomach pain marijuana worked effectively for many years…until, it stopped working. Smoking MJ for pain relief is effective
    w/o the side effects of traditional meds…that is
    -Unless you are an addict! Unfortunately one of the GREATest misconceptions of our times is That Pot Is NOT Addictive!! Well, tell that to all the teens today that show up in 12step mtgs/recovery homes with an obsession to get high everyday all day.
    Back to medicinal MJ for highly)pun Intended effective pain management…if it is truly just to ease symptoms & not to ‘get
    High’, let’s get it in the available tincture formula, &stop ‘kiddiin’ ourselves that it’s an RX alone that we use it for.
    It’s a national tragedy what I witness in my ongoing substance abuse recovery mtgs -the societal damage we are placing on our kids in our denial of weeds’ potency is costing the future of our youth, their brains & the possibility of lifetime of treatment addiction can take. Pls lets stop viewing this “herb”as ‘its just a plant that grows in the ground.’ Yeah so do POPPies!!..Lets not solve one problem with another problem.
    Grateful for Recovery,
    Christine C

  3. Kristine (Krissy) at 6:34 pm

    Dee, they already are publishing strategies and information for those “addicted” to mj. If I can find what I read today, I’ll post it.

    Here we go again!

  4. Jeremy Goodwin, MS, MD at 1:00 pm

    As a very experienced pain and headache specialist for adults and children, in university and private settings, and as s neurologist, I have prescribed and recommended medical marijuana with great frequency over the years given the thousands of patients seen who did not do well on other agents. I have NEVER charged a patient for this since I see that as immoral.

    Nonetheless, I have seen a few do well, a few do questionably well and a number fail to imprive on it. It is NOT a panacea. It has its role and can be used safely with opioids and other controlled substances but it cannot replace them.

    I do wish that its proponents would not exaggerate its potential. That is misguided and factually incorrect. I know of no treatments where one size fits all. Please, let’s get real here.

  5. Dee Green at 12:41 pm

    If the Antiopioid lobby begins fomenting the “addictive” qualities of Marijuana, then you will know that the true agenda from the beginning is pure prohibition of any and all pain treatment options 😊 Pay attention to media reports- that’s where it begins!