Worldwide, over 1.5 billion people suffer from chronic pain. Of course, it’s no exaggeration to say that those who play professional contact sports such as football can suffer from some of the worst and prolonged injuries. And while a recent study co-funded by ESPN and the National Institute on Drug Abuse showed that about 52% of retired football players have used prescription painkillers during their careers, many players are advocating for the use of cannabis as a safer and non-addictive alternative, according to the Las Vegas Sun.
The study also showed that 63% of those who took painkillers admitted to receiving them from teammates, trainers, and even coaches, despite the NFL’s strict policy regarding substance abuse.
On average, consumers are exposed to 3,000 ads and promotional messages every day, but former Ravens offensive tackle Eugene Monroe was the first NFL player to openly promote the use of cannabis as a method to treat chronic pain. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, he voiced his opinion about the need for more research.
“You look at the fact that our government has a patent on marijuana and says that they’ve found that it can be anti-inflammatory and it can also protect the brain, that it can be neuroprotective,” said Monroe in the interview. “Those are signs that point toward more research. If the NFL is truly committed to research in this space, they can look no further than the U.S. government for the initial direction of that research.”
Despite the fact that almost 59% of chronic-pain sufferers reported an impact on their overall enjoyment of life, cannabis is listed by the NFL as an illegal drug in the Policy and Program on Substance Abuse. After a second positive test, players are subject to suspension.
In a recent panel discussion, four former NFL athletes, including Marvin Washington, Mark Restelli, Jim McMahon and Grant Mattos, got together with cannabis therapeutics specialist Uma Dhanabalan and former Colorado State University student-athlete Treyous Jarrells to discuss the therapeutic use of cannabis, saying it would help to “address major problems.”
Washington, former player for the New York Jets, was especially vocal about the key health issues NFL players often face: concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease.
“Put people first, it’s all about the patients,” Washington said. “They’re not trying to get high, they’re trying to feel better.”
Rostelli shared similar sentiments, saying that after the career-ending injury to his left knee, he required four surgeries in three years, which is what led him to become such an adamant advocate for cannabis.
“We are highly motivated world-class athletes that use cannabis on a daily basis to treat issues that we have from playing,” Restelli said.
Dhanabalan ultimately stated that people should “embrace and empower” the healing effects of cannabis as opposed to other pharmaceuticals such as opiates. He cited that even though the U.S. makes up just 5% of the world’s population, the country uses 80% of the world’s opiates.
“We’ve been talking about this opiate epidemic and how many people have died from cannabis? Nobody in the world has ever died from this,” Dhanabalan said. “It is not an entrance drug, it’s an exit drug from pharmaceuticals, narcotics and alcohol.”