The relationship between marijuana and professional sports is normally portrayed in media in the context of a player getting in trouble for violating a league drug policy. But, the profound impact medical marijuana can have in helping those suffering from brain injuries caused by concussions is leading an ever-growing chorus of advocates to pressure the NFL to adopt a more pro-marijuana policy.
In recent years, the fact that concussions are wreaking serious health problems on NFL players has become much more well known (in no small part due to the success of the blockbuster movie Concussion.) The NFL has been forced to take steps to remediate this problem by paying afflicted retired players and their families money. The league has also implemented safety rules, and presumably will continue to do so, that are intended to reduce head-on-head collisions. There is another major step the NFL could take to show that it is serious about addressing this issue: end the prohibition on marijuana use and promote medical marijuana instead.
Last year an editorial in Forbes argued that the NFL should be investing in marijuana research if it wants to survive. The reason is simple: marijuana is an effective treatment for the condition known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). This occurs when a person has suffered multiple concussions over time, which is exactly what happens to many players in the NFL. Marijuana treats the chronic pain without the harmful side effects of opioid drugs, and also helps sufferers deal with CTE symptoms such as anxiety and depression.
In June of 2016, several NFL players spoke in favor of medical marijuana at the Cannabis World Congress in New York City, citing these benefits. They were joined by players from the NHL, another sport where CTE is common. Former Chicago Bears star quarterback (and Super Bowl winner) Jim McMahon has stated that medical marijuana was “a godsend” for his CTE.
It is about time for the NFL to start respecting the medical benefits of marijuana. The health of its players – and its public image – depend on it.
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