NFL Cannabis Policy Shift Toward Embracing CBD Research For Tackling Concussions And Pain

The NFL’s policy on cannabis has experienced significant changes in recent years, with notable implications for both players and the league as a whole. While star tight end Travis Kelce estimates that a sizable percentage of NFL players engage in cannabis use, the league is gradually relaxing its stance on marijuana.

Under the amended rules implemented in 2021, players now face reduced penalties for testing positive for marijuana. Previously, players were required to undergo one weed test per year at the start of training camp. Though cannabis testing remains a part of the league’s policy, the shift towards reduced penalties indicates a more lenient approach.

One significant development in the NFL’s evolving stance on cannabis is its involvement in research efforts. During the summer of 2022, the NFL and its players’ union announced their collaboration to fund two research grants worth over $500,000 each. These grants were allocated to independent studies investigating the therapeutic benefits of CBD (cannabinoids) as an alternative pain treatment to opioids for players with concussions. Furthermore, in February 2022, the NFL awarded a $1 million grant to two teams of medical researchers studying the effects of CBD on pain management and neuroprotection from concussions among elite football players.

The prevalence of concussions among football players is a significant concern. Brain injuries in football account for a staggering 65% to 95% of all fatalities, according to the Brain Injury Research Institute. Moreover, football-related brain injuries occur at a rate of one in every five-and-a-half games.

In light of these statistics, researchers from the University of Regina, recipients of the NFL’s 2022 grant, aim to explore how CBD can help with concussions. Following a concussion, the brain initiates complex chemical processes to repair itself. While crucial, this repair process can sometimes lead to unwanted inflammation. CBD, a compound found in cannabis, has anti-inflammatory properties that can aid in reducing inflammation while still allowing the brain to recover.

Dr. Patrick Neary, leading the University of Regina study, highlighted CBD’s anti-inflammatory qualities and its potential to support the brain’s recovery process. By leveraging CBD’s properties, researchers hope to gain a more comprehensive understanding of its potential benefits in treating concussions among football players.

The NFL’s involvement in cannabis research and the relaxation of its policies surrounding marijuana demonstrate a growing recognition of the potential therapeutic benefits of cannabis, particularly CBD, for professional football players. As more research and evidence emerge, it is likely that the NFL’s stance on cannabis will continue to evolve, potentially leading to further changes in its policies and regulations.

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