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    Can Cannabis Save the NFL?

    July 11, 2017

July 11, 2017

Can Cannabis Save the NFL?

The Impact of High Impact Sports

Despite unprecedented television ratings and soaring popularity, the future of the America’s most popular sports league remains uncertain.  This uncertainty stems from an influx of statistics and new information regarding concussions caused by impact sustained by countless collisions on the field.  Links have been made between these concussions and neurological disorders such as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).

An increasing number of NFL retirees are coming forward with their experiences with health issues such as CTE, which they believe to have stemmed from their time playing professional football.  Many former players who experienced concussions during their career are now battling depression, memory loss, and other neurological issues.  Junior Seau was an NFL player who committed suicide in 2012 and was afterward diagnosed with CTE, which is only able to be detected after death.

In March of this year, the NFL finally acknowledged a link between head injuries sustained during football collisions and CTE.  This is following a string of players who decided to retire early during the prime of their careers, such as 23-year-old A.J. Tarpley.  Tarpley was a promising young linebacker for the Buffalo Bills, who decided to call it quits after sustaining the 4th concussion of his career.  The NFL formally recognizing this issue is a step in the right direction, as the concussion problem is rightfully being viewed as a huge risk to the health and safety of NFL players and their families.

A Fix in Plain Sight

Another recurring discussion in modern football is the NFL’s strict drug policy.  Approved by the NFL Players Association, the league’s drug policy places a ban on cannabis.  Although banned, the most recent league drug policy reclassified cannabis as a “substance of abuse” as opposed to placing it in the same category as performance enhancing drugs.  Players violating the rules regarding cannabis use face fines and suspensions, such as Josh Gordon of the Cleveland Browns.  Gordon has faced multiple suspensions, including a year-long suspension without pay in 2014.

Despite the strict rules in place, many retired NFL players are open about their use of cannabis throughout their careers, and into retirement.  Even current players confirm that the use of cannabis is common in the NFL, whether it be for recreation, pain relief, or concussion prevention.  

There are chemicals found in cannabis, such as THC, that are capable of relieving pain as well as protecting the brain.  Research on the topic is in its early stages, however, studies suggest that cannabis may reduce stress on the brain that results from head injuries.

As more of this research surfaces and cannabis becomes legal in an increasing number of states, the NFL would be wise to reevaluate their position concerning cannabis use.  Although the NFL policies correlate with actual laws and statutes, undeniable medical benefits of cannabis should at least start a conversation about the league’s strict drug policy.

The NFL cares about the safety of its players and seeks improvements through more advanced equipment and updated rules of the game.  Wouldn’t it be wise for the league to remain consistent by reconsidering its cannabis ban?  If cannabis increases the safety of players, prevents concussions, and provides a better life after football, it should be viewed as a viable solution just like any of the other preventive measures already put in place.