Opinion: Can cannabinoids help tackle CTE in NFL?


Player safety in the NFL has become a prevalent issue due in large part to concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, CTE, a progressive brain disease associated with repetitive blows to the head.

Eugene Monroe, a Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle, first told the Washington Post in early June that after sustaining multiple concussions throughout his career the final straw was when he suffered one in the first week of the 2016 season in Denver.

After experiencing concussion-like symptoms and under-going surgery for a shoulder injury at the end of the season, again the seven-year pro was fed opiates like Vicodin, Percocet, Adderall, Morphine and Codeine to combat the pain. Like many players, the effect caused Monroe to feel queasy and can cause, for some, players to become addicted to these prescriptions.

With as much strain and force that gets put on the pro athlete body, a healthier alternative should be allowed for those who choose so. Or, at least, research into a better option should also be considered.

Monroe, along with former Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer and other former NFL players, have helped advocate and fund “When The Bright Lights Fade,” a campaign pushing for cannabidiols to be used as a medical treatment in the league.

CBD is one of at least 113 cannabinoids and is a non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis that also has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. Studies and other empirical evidence found that CBD helps people cope with anxiety, depression, glaucoma, nausea, inflammation and insomnia among other conditions.

CBD became more popular after it was used to help treat a child epilepsy patient named Charlotte in Colorado. That particular CBD strain is widely known as Charlotte’s Web.

CBD strains are typically low in THC, the active ingredient allowing users to get ‘high’ and is made from hemp plants testing below 0.3 percent THC.  The strain can also be extracted into an oil
which would be the preferred method for ill children and athletes using for medicinal purposes.

In May, Monroe became the first active player to advocate that marijuana be removed from the NFL banned substance list, likely because others have fear of ruining their careers. The campaign doesn’t just push the approval of cannabis in the NFL, but that researchers study football players’ use of CBD and the body’s tolerance of them long term.

If we continue to deem marijuana as a negative in society or even treat it as just a recreational drug, we will miss out on an opportunity to preserve life. The more research that is done on
medical properties in cannabis the faster we can apply it to those needed.

A 2015 study from Boston University and the Department of Veterans Affairs revealed that 87 of the 91 deceased NFL players tested were found to have CTE. First published by PBS Frontline, they
also reported that forty percent of those who tested positive were offensive and defensive linemen, players who come into contact with one another on every play of a game.

The stigma of marijuana, however, is changing. There are now 25 states including Washington D.C. that have laws allowing the sale of medicinal marijuana and four states that allow recreational use as well.

The more society begins to accept this as a medicine, the more pressure will be placed upon the NFL to consider this a viable treatment for its players.

With the rise in overdoses related to prescription pain medication this is something we can no longer overlook.

The NFL has changed its policy and raised the THC threshold from 15 nano grams/ml to 35 ng/ml in 2014. The hypocrisy that still exists with marijuana use in the NFL has prevented it from being removed from the substance abuse list.

Until more current players are brave enough to push this initiative, painkillers will continue to be the prescribed choice for the league and its players.

2 Responses to "Opinion: Can cannabinoids help tackle CTE in NFL?"

  1. Earl Grant  June 21, 2016 at 11:46 am

    Mike this is an excellent story. I am proud to give you props on putting that togohter

  2. Cindy Ewald  August 6, 2016 at 11:06 am

    I imagine everyone was saddened to see the NFL tried to deny the excellent CTE data and tried to discredit Dr. Bennet Omalu and destroy him. Now that light has been shined on this issue and the recognition that many of our Vets coming home from the middle east are suffering from the same devastating and often fatal condition it is time to demand our NFL and Government give these men and women full accessed to CBD immediately. IF they find relief in marijuana we should provide medical grade marijuana to them. We owe it to them. Become an advocate.


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