Taking stock in the progress across sports organizations over the last several years, it’s clear that the relationship between cannabis, cannabinoids and the athletic industries has changed immensely.
The National Football League (NFL) and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) are continuing the momentum, as the two groups announced last week that they are jointly awarding two grants in research funding to investigate alternative pain management that could benefit NFL players, including the effects of cannabidiol, or the non-psychoactive cannabinoid
NFL Continues to Explore New Solutions
The funding, totaling $526,525, will go to independent medical researchers at the American Society of Pain and Neuroscience (ASPN) and Emory University, according to an NFL
The NFL-NFLPA Joint Pain Management Committee chose this second round of awards. The committee’s purpose is to facilitate research to better understand and improve potential alternative pain management treatments for NFL players.
“We are always seeking new knowledge, techniques, and tools to ensure that NFL athletes are treated with the best possible care,” said Dr. Allen Sills, NFL Chief Medical Officer. “We are proud to lead the way on investigating how the use of CBD and other alternative measures could positively impact pain management for players. As within the broader scope of player health and safety, we want to ensure every treatment at our disposal clears the appropriate medical standard for wider use.”
CBD to Treat Post-Traumatic Headache?
The winning proposal involving CBD is titled, “A Pilot Study Assessing Non-Invasive Treatment of Refractory Post-Concussion Headache Pain,” to be led by Dr. Erika Peterson and researchers at the ASPN. The study will focus on post-traumatic headache (PTH), one of the most common aftereffects of concussion and other traumatic brain injury.
“PTH is a poorly treated, highly debilitating headache disorder where medications and other options for treatment are not very effective. Given that nearly 4 million Americans are diagnosed with concussions annually, PTH should be considered a substantial public health concern,” the release notes in a description of the study.
Cannabinoids, and options like nVNS, are among some of the new treatment avenues for PTH and have shown promise as alternatives to opioid-based treatments. The randomized study, which would also be the first of its kind, would explore nVNS and CBD in contact sport athletes with PTH and compare it to the current standard of care treatment. The data would then be used to further guide future investigations on treating patients with PTH.
“The funding for these studies will lead to advancements which will ultimately help NFL players off the field,” said Colonel Geoffrey Ling, Co-Chair of the NFL-NFLPA Pain Management Committee. “The health and safety of players is always the highest priority for the NFLPA and the work of the joint pain management committee with the NFL is an important part of fulfilling this mission.”
The Latest in a Slow Stream of Changes
The NFL, and many other sports organizations, have steadily begun to ease cannabis- and cannabinoid-related restrictions while also paving the way for further research.
Last year, the NFL awarded $1 million in funding to researchers at the University of California San Diego and the University of Regina to study the effects of cannabinoids on general pain recovery along with neuroprotective properties that may reduce the use of prescription medication.
The NFL and NFLPA also agreed to change the league’s cannabis policy during the 2021 offseason. The new policy requires players to be tested for cannabis just once yearly, at the start of training camp. Players who test positive would be subject to a fine, whereas previously they could receive a lengthy suspension.
Other sports organizations have made similar moves.
A National Basketball Association (NBA)