How often are we excited when hockey players drop their gloves on the ice, football players tackle each other to the ground, and MMA fighters achieve the ultimate TKO? As sports fan, these are the types of plays many of us stand up and cheer for. As spectators we simply enjoy the show, but rarely do we ever think about the aftermath of what happens to these athletes and the amount of damage that occurs to their bodies. There are teams of doctors, physiotherapists and sports medicine professionals who take care of these athletes, provide them with the training they need to heal, and prescribe medication.
Pain management is extremely prevalent in sports and what comes with pain management? A mixed bag of pharmaceuticals that are often given to these professional athletes to help them recover to get them back to their respective professions. The use of these drugs is accepted and rarely questioned by society. But is there another way? Can athletes manage chronic pain with more natural methods like CBD rather than reply on the use of opioids and antidepressants?
Times are changing, and athletes are more knowledgeable about what they ingest and have begun to question medical experts. Advocacy for the use of CBD in sports is a growing trend and people are finally learning that CBD doesn’t make you high. CBD is the non-intoxicating part of the cannabis sativa plant that can provide numerous healing benefits. Taking on big pharma is quite the challenge and cannabis advocates in sports are often blacklisted.
The challenges of bringing CBD to the forefront of pain management is:
- Cannabis is identified as a schedule 1 drug in the United States, along with heroin, LSD and ecstasy and on the prohibited list for most major professional sports organizations
- When an athlete wants to use CBD for chronic pain, they must acquire a Therapeutic Use Exemption license but only after trying every other recognized pain medication then having a doctor confirm that CBD is the best route. This process is not easy
- The stigma of cannabis is still an issue because the use of cannabis is still seen as doping
- Rather than being a debate on health, this debate of CBD use is political. Big pharma sponsors arenas, donates to sports teams, pays the doctors their salaries etc.
It’s an interesting debate to think about the cannabis plant in comparison to other drugs; does cannabis really belong in the same category as heroin?
THE BENEFITS OF CBD IN SPORTS
- Relieves chronic pain. Studies have shown that CBD may help reduce chronic pain by impacting endocannabinoid receptor activity, reducing inflammation, and interacting with neurotransmitters
- Eliminates addiction to opioids. CBD is not addictive and doesn’t lead to addiction like other substances
- Reduces anxiety and depression which can play a huge role in recovery for athletes
- Improves sleep. CBD may lower stress hormones like cortisol that could otherwise interfere with normal sleep cycles
- Promotes muscle relaxation. CBD may promote muscle relaxation by influencing a system that stills, quiets, and calms the body down
- Works to reduce muscle inflammation for a faster recovery
- Improves and protects against traumatic brain injuries
It’s very difficult to change societal perceptions and stigmas of cannabis being a “gateway” drug. A drug used to party and get high and have some fun rather than a more natural substance to help the athletes we so admire. There is a lack of education and willingness to have a conversation about the benefits of CBD over other substances. Athletes are sometimes treated as puppets by large sports leagues who are financially gaining from big pharma and don’t want their players speaking out and going against them. We as avid sports fans get joy and entertainment from seeing our favourite athletes triumph; it’s time to advocate for the namesakes on our jerseys to choose CBD as a legitimate treatment for pain management and recovery.