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The Position Cannabis Plays in Sports

Give an overview of cannabis in sports, and why professional athletes are choosing to consume cannabis. 

Professional athletes put their bodies through a lot of brutal work. Between training for game day, and performing their best on the day of the game, a lot of that work results in physical injuries. Whether it’s a wide receiver taking a bone crushing tackle on his way into the end-zone, or a broken ankle on the basketball court, injuries are just an every day part of being a professional athlete.

 
With injuries being so prevalent in the arena of sports, especially serious head injuries in high contact sports like football, mixed martial arts and hockey, athletes are usually looking for ways to recover from injuries, reduce the symptoms of injuries, like pain and inflammation, or ways to keep themselves in top physical condition.

The neuroprotective properties of cannabis, which have been shown to benefit sufferers of traumatic brain injuries, are thought to be a serious contender in treating concussions and other head related injuries that occur in certain sports. Pain relief is a top reported benefit of cannabis for athletes, especially for those who have suffered injuries, and/or undergone surgery. Reducing inflammation and boosting the immune system are two more reasons why athletes find relief in cannabis. They believe to allow for quicker recoveries, and improving overall health. 

Several former professional athletes have come out of the green closet in support of cannabis. They include cannabis advocates, business owners, workers in the cannabis industry, investors, you name it. You might recognize names like Ricky Williams (NFL), Riley Cote (NHL), or Nate Diaz (UFC). All of these athletes have been very open about their choices to consume cannabis as medicine. In fact, Riley Cote is one of the Co-Founders of Athletes For Care. They are a non-profit, entirely founded by former professional athletes. Their goal is uniting athletes from all sports, around important health issues, including the use of cannabis as medicine.

 
This isn’t the beginning of cannabis in sports, because it’s already started. Many professional athletes admit to consuming cannabis long before they realized it was working as a medicine. Currently, the primary prescriptions for pain relief in sports are opioid based medications. Opioids do reduce pain, but they’re also highly addictive, and can have unhealthy side effects. This is another reason why athletes are consuming cannabis, is as an alternative to opioids, but with cannabis being illegal at a federal level, not all leagues are in favor of it.


However, in 2018, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), officially removed CBD from its banned substance list. They oversee compliance of the World Anti-Doping Code, which maintains and regulates the anti-doping rules in all sports and all countries, so when they did this, it was a big deal. They may have only removed CBD, but it was a large step in the right direction for ending the prohibition of cannabis in sports, and around the world. In recent years, most major sports leagues in the U.S. have relaxed a bit on their stance on cannabis, but we’ve still got a few more rounds left in the fight before it’s fully accepted as a medicine in professional sports.

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