5 Potential Health Benefits of Marijuana and Cannabis for NFL Athletes

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Athletic competitions are not fond of players using banned substances. In some cases, those substances are taken as stress-relievers, in other, individuals seek to enhance their performance or reduce chronic physical pain. The National Football League (NFL) is now also considering marijuana for pain management, as many athletes have been taking the substance to help push through the pain. 

With the ethical dilemma of allowing athletes to freely dabble in substances such as marijuana and cannabis, one question comes to mind: is it so that there are no alternatives to these drugs that can help athletes manage pain without crossing a line? Then again, is taking a pain killer really crossing a line?

Marijuana May Protect the Brain from Concussions and Traumas

In a sport such as football, chronic pain is just one of the downsides of the game. Athletes are at a permanent risk of suffering serious physical injuries during their active careers, as head traumas and concussions are among the most common problems NFL players experience, besides chronic pain and in 99% of the cases: permanent brain damage. According to Harvard professor and a proponent of marijuana use by athletes, Lester Grinspoon, marijuana should be adopted in competitions such as the NFL. Mr. Grinspoon wrote an open letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell  highlighting the dangerous of the sports as a particularly violent game and the risks thereafter.

While, Mr. Grinspoon had no objection against the game itself, he insisted that the NFL should consider lifting bans on marijuana use and focus on investing in studies that can help athletes cope with head injuries, traumas and chronic pain.

The letter also explained that a processed form of marijuana can be relieved of any toxicity and doesn’t come with any of the psychoactivity associate with regular drugs.

Want to Avoid Muscle Spasms? Marijuana Is the Way

NFL athletes have been reporting sporadic muscle spasms which affect both their ability to play as well as having a quality life. A report released back in 2017 by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine argued that spasms can be controlled with the help of medicinal marijuana.

In fact, the report didn’t just make assumption but outright stated that muscle spasms can be definitively treated with the help of marijuana. This means that the drug can be used both to treat chronic pain and to also be used as a preventative in those cases when an athletes suffers spikes in muscle sensitivity. 

Cannabis is another drug that comes handy when it comes to muscle spasms, even though marijuana seems to be a preferred option overall. In both cases, the consumption of such drugs should be first sanctioned by the NFL which has assigned two independent committees to look into whether cannabis and marijuana can’t be substituted with a combination of “legal drugs”.

You Can Take Marijuana to Control Anxiety

Even though this is not entirely a health benefit, athletes are under a lot of stress. In fact, one study indicated that 95% of all athletes had developed mental health changes related to anxiety and depression. Another 99% of passed-away NFL players had a permanent brain damage.

The violence of the game has taken a clear mental toll and while players are hardened and used to the pain, they also need to be treated with all means possible. Marijuana can help reduce much of the anxiety, which brings better focus in games and as a result a better opportunity to avoid dangerous situations in the first place.

However, marijuana can also cause anxiety, so an individualized dose of the drug “should” be consumed by each player reporting problems so as to avoid those effects. A few puffs of marijuana would help athletes relax, but a few puffs too many would have the exact opposite effect.

Cannabis Can Speed Up Recovery in Athletes

Cannabis can help athletes deal with traumas and physical injuries. More specifically, cannabis helps you achieve better sleep and boosts recovery. There are additional benefits that make some NFL doctors uneasy such as the inherent performance-enhancement qualities of the substance, although the National Hockey League (NHL) has dismissed those.

For example, the NFL fears that allowing cannabis and marijuana as pain management drugs would come with abuse that would lead to unfair advantages for such athletes. Cannabis is also good of dealing with “negative experiences”, helping athletes not bring these to mind during games and trainings.

Cannabis Will Boost Impulsive Responses

While not a health benefit entirely, cannabis can have a great effect on athletic performance insofar as impulsive responses go. What’s this you would ask? In layman’s terms an athlete would become more assertive as a result of taking cannabis. At the same time, cognition and decision-making are not impaired in anyway.

While fans and players see the possible upsides of helping athletes tackle health issues, these performance-enhancement perks are not much to the taste of the NFL Commission. 

The Commission is actively seeking ways to introduce medicine that will help athletes manage pain and avoid traumas while not leaving any room for doubt whether the particular performance of a player is the upshot of unfair advantage occasioned by the drug. 

Final Words on Health Benefits from Marijuana and Cannabis

Weed and cannabis have been proven as substances with immense health benefit to the body. Their applications can be pursue beyond sports and this is likely the future of medicine. Where most other pain killers have failed to help people, marijuana and cannabis are apparently successful.

The dilemma that the NFL now faces is whether it can create a level playfield so that athletes on the these substances are evenly-matched against their peers. While the fairness of the contest is definitely worth upholding, meanwhile many players live in chronic pain. Decisions need to be made and soon at that. 

The NHL can be used as an example of how the football league should treat its athletes. For example, the hockey governing body doesn’t’ consider cannabis to be a banned substance and that’s one thing on which the NFL can focus to establish its own practices that will help relief pain among players.


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