By / February 4, 2022

NFL awards $1 million to study effects of cannabis on pain management

The NFL has announced that it is awarding $1 million to two teams of researchers from the University of California San Diego and the University of Regina in Canada to study the effects of certain cannabis molecules on pain management, neuroprotection against concussions and injury recovery in players.

Sports are only the latest field to be adding to the global cannabis research fervor. Every week seems to bring new studies and initiatives in the growing field of cannabis medical research. Stay up to date with breaking cannabis news and hemp news updates with our companion mobile app.

NFL Reaches Out to Cannabis Pain Management Researchers

“We’re always interested in trying to improve our approach and treatment of acute and chronic pain in NFL players, and we want to make sure our players receive the most up-to-date medical consensus around any of these treatments,” NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills told the Associated Press.

“So the level of evidence has to be really high for NFL players. Any time we want to introduce a new therapy, we have to understand how that decision may impact their well-being and performance. We know there has been a lot of interest in this area, but we didn’t feel like there was a lot of solid research on the benefits of cannabis or CBD on treating acute and chronic pain. That’s why we wanted to try to contribute to the overall science in this area.”

Dr Kevin Hill, director of addiction psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and a cannabis researcher, is the co-chair of the joint NFL-NFLPA committee on pain management. Hill explains why there hasn’t been much research on this topic.

“One reason is that the DEA’s classification of cannabis makes it more difficult to do this research, but the main reason is that the stakeholders are not really interested in advancing the science,” Hill told the AP.

First steps needed to research cannabis and pain relief in NFL

“You have states and companies that are making a lot of money selling cannabis products, selling CBD products right now. So they don’t feel the need to prove the efficacy of these products, when millions of people are using them. So it’s a difficult situation that we find ourselves in as health professionals or organisations that really care about the health and safety of our constituents, the players in this case.”

“We really want to know if they work. And every day I meet patients who are interested in cannabinoids, and it’s the same thing – we really don’t know the answers to that question. So it becomes a very complicated risk/benefit discussion. So I’m thrilled to be part of something that’s really going to help find answers to the questions that everyone has been talking about for years.”

“I also want to emphasize that this is a first step. The NFL has done excellent research in other areas that have nothing to do with cannabis directly: concussions, musculoskeletal injuries, etc. We’re not just talking about cannabinoids. We don’t just want to know about cannabinoids. We want to know if there are ways to treat pain better. And so we’re going to use that and look at that process and see if there’s a way to improve that process, but continue to try to advance the science in the interest of player health and safety.”

These projects will take three years to complete.

Cannabis is a banned substance in the NFL, although the rules regarding players’ use of cannabis have been relaxed. Players who test positive are no longer suspended, but can be fined depending on the number of positive tests. The testing schedule has also been changed from April to August to the first two weeks of the training camp. In addition, the threshold for triggering a positive test has been increased fourfold.

“This type of work will be of interest to athletes in many different sports and at all levels,” said Sills.

“We know that all sports have some degree of injury and pain that is associated with that injury. So I think it’s going to be very generalizable. These products already exist and in many cases are widely used and marketed. So this research will help to inform people about which strategies may be beneficial and which may not. So I think this cannabis research will have a huge impact on the NFL, on elite sport as a whole, but also on sport at all levels of society.”

(Photo by Adrian Curiel via Unsplash)

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