Every year, thirty-two National Football League teams compete to win the Super Bowl. The NFL regular season lasts for a total of 17 weeks, beginning in September and ending towards late December. NFL athletes work hard to maintain maximum performance over these grueling 17 weeks. Which brings us to the question: are their potential uses of CBD in the NFL?
To be successful in their careers, football players need strength and power. Several muscles are used in football. For running and jumping, there are the glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps. For reaching and pushing, you’ll use your chest, arms and shoulders. The various twists and turns required wouldn’t be possible without obliques, abs and muscles found in the lower-back area.
Athletic prowess doesn’t happen overnight. To achieve this and to stay in shape, athletes must train regularly. A good workout should develop more than one type of muscle at the same time. What do football players do to maximize their training? They build stamina by combining jogging and sprinting over short intervals. They work towards strengthening their hamstrings and quadriceps to increase speed. Additional exercises help provide leg muscles with explosive power. Football players must be strong, yet agile. They need to find balance while maintaining speed.
Between frequent training sessions and football games, athletes may also suffer from various injuries. These include common injuries like a sprained knee to more serious ones like broken ribs. However, their muscles aren’t the only things under stress. Spectators may view football as “just a game”, but the players are under significant pressure to perform. Even successful players can experience psychological distress. What resources are available to help football players manage the physical and psychological challenges of the game?
Sports Personnel and Medicine
For over forty years, research has improved the quality and effectiveness of sports medicine. Physicians are available to help manage an athlete’s health throughout their professional career. There is also a better understanding of concussions and how to treat them. Techniques have progressed in the practice of physiotherapy or surgery after an injury. Recovery times are faster, which allows players to be back on the field in record time. On game days, an entire medical team is on site to assist athletes. There are trainers, orthopedists, chiropractors, ophthalmologists, dentists and paramedics, to name a few.
In recent times, psychologists have been added to help football players with mental health. Challenges can include depression, career changes, and other obstacles they may face. They’ll learn how to manage stress, maintain healthy relationships and make good decisions. Players can benefit from counselling as well as guidance for suicide prevention. Other mental health concerns may be the consequence of degenerative brain disease caused by frequent head injuries. Other professional football players may be living with chronic pain and struggle with substance abuse as a result.
How Does the NFL Feel About CBD?
In 2017, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) removed CBD from its list of banned drugs.
Over the past two years, rumors suggested that the National Football League may loosen the rules about marijuana use among their players and that owners might be willing to make concessions in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. Through these negotiations, it is thought that cannabis may be used as a bargaining chip. Leniency is being shown towards the use of CBD in the NFL because of its legalization both federally and in numerous states, as well as it becoming more mainstream in general. It is likely only a matter of time before the league studies the possible benefits of cannabidiol and considers changing their existing policies.
Additionally, an increasing number of NFL players are endorsing cannabis products. Former athletes include Rob Gronkowski, Joe Montana, Ricky Williams, Tiki Barber, and Calvin Johnson. They claim that cannabis products have helped them recover more quickly from injuries, reduce inflammation, and alleviate pain.
In May 2019, a historical agreement was signed between the National Football League and the NFLPA. They joined efforts in finding additional ways to support the wellness of NFL players. These efforts include resources to help manage pain and assist those with mental health. They also expressed an interest in conducting research on potential alternative pain management solutions such as the use of CBD.
How Beneficial Is CBD in the NFL?
A 2017 study showed that an abnormally large percentage of retired professional football players had a degenerative brain disease. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy occurs in those who experience frequent head injuries. Some of the symptoms those suffering from CTE may experience include memory loss, aggression, progressive dementia, depression and suicidal thoughts. Athletes may also experience traumatic brain injury, concussions, cerebral contusions and intracranial hematomas. In 1998, scientists discovered that CBD may be a neuroprotective antioxidant. Research on the effects of cannabis oil on brain cells aimed to discover if it can reduce inflammation as well as increase blood flow in the human brain. Both processes may lessen the chance of there being further damage after a head injury.
The human body’s endocannabinoid system has two core components: CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors and endogenous cannabinoids like anandamide. The former serve as neuroreceptors whereas the latter has a binding effect. All of this is crucial to maintaining a healthy brain or in helping it recover from injury.
In one study, lab rats with head injuries were administered endogenous cannabinoids. This reduced brain damage by up to 50%. These findings in animal research have led to the exploration of what CBD may be able to do for protecting the human brain. One article published by Frontiers in Pharmacology stated that cannabinoids “represent important areas of basic research and potential therapeutic interest to treat [traumatic brain injury]”.
Due to the chronic pain that physical damage can cause, athletes often resort to the use of opioid painkillers. These products are potent and easily accessible to football players. It is estimated that opioid addiction is four times higher among players in the NFL than in the rest of the population. With time, athletes may develop a higher tolerance to these powerful drugs, and this may lead athletes to unintentionally misuse the drug. As a result, they’ll rely on stronger opioids like Oxycontin or even fentanyl. Because of this, an athlete’s dopamine neurotransmission can become unbalanced. On the other hand, CBD in the NFL would likely reduce such issues because it doesn’t create such strong withdrawal symptoms.
Finding non-addictive ways to manage pain is crucial for everyone, but especially NFL players. Their bodies are subject to increasingly damaging impacts on an ongoing basis. The present system of overprescribing painkillers just isn’t healthy or reasonable. All too often, withdrawal symptoms lead to a relapse.
Research has sought to explore whether there are any antidepressant properties of cannabis oil. If so, it could one day be useful for professional athletes who suffer from depression, anxiety, or similar mood disorders.
One study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology explored the potential of CBD in the “treatment of neuroinflammation, epilepsy, oxidative injury, vomiting and nausea, anxiety and schizophrenia”. So how might CBD in the NFL aid in combating mental health? Professional athletes are under considerable stress and pressure, and this can be a great cause of anxiety and depression. In 2011, researchers studied the link between the use of cannabinoids and these symptoms by presenting patients with a stressful situation. Those who ingested CBD felt lower levels of anxiety, cognitive impairment and stress than those who were given a placebo. These are just a handful of studies, of course, and more research needs to be completed before the FDA will consider approving CBD for the treatment of such conditions.
A Better Quality of Sleep
Every professional football player knows the importance of a good night’s sleep for muscle recovery. What can you do if counting sheep doesn’t help you fall asleep? Many athletes hope to find relief from CBD.
One factor that can make it difficult to fall asleep is stress. This is due to a hormone called cortisol that can impact a person’s sleep cycle. Another factor is simple discomfort due to chronic or acute pain. CBD activates the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This is the same system in your body that, among other roles, manages pain, inflammation, and stress hormones like cortisol.
How to Use CBD Oil
For athletes wanting to reap the potential effects of CBD oil, there are several ways of doing so. You can ingest cannabidiol in the forms of capsules and pills, infuse it in a carrier oil or inhale it through a vaping tool. You can also take it in the form of edibles like CBD gummies. Otherwise, you can apply creams topically or ingest CBD sublingually.
Two common CBD products available are full-spectrum CBD and pure CBD isolate. The latter is preferable for athletes because there are negligible traces of THC. Football players need to understand the difference between different types of CBD products if they want to pass a drug test. To be sure that CBD is right for you, consult a healthcare professional.
Although CBD isn’t officially recognized and promoted in the NFL, ongoing negotiations suggest a growing leniency towards it. Numerous former athletes feel they are enjoying a better quality of life after using cannabidiol.
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