Elite Athletes Tolerate Topical CBD Treatment With Minor Side Effects, Study Finds

A new study found that topical CBD significantly benefits elite athletes struggling with chronic lower extremity pain, opening up new possibilities for safe and effective pain management in sports.

The use of CBD in sports is not new, as it has catalyzed the interests of many athletes at different levels in recent years. But a study claimed to be the first of its kind has tried to assess how topical CBD can help elite athletes manage pain.

CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a popular cannabinoid in the cannabis plant. Unlike THC, it does not produce psychoactive effects, and research has demonstrated its ability to treat pain through its analgesic properties.

Researchers from Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center at Shreveport collaborated with the Tiger Research Group (TRG), a Dallas-based private organization dedicated to advancing cannabinoid therapy through education and research, to investigate the impact of topical CBD on elite athletes.

The results of the study published in the Journal of Cannabis Research late last month found that using CBD to treat lower extremity pain did not lead to any severe adverse reactions that required medical attention.

Although 30% of the participants reported minor adverse effects that did not hinder their ability to complete the study, the remaining 70% tolerated the treatment without experiencing any negative side effects.

The authors of this study claim that it is the first of its kind as it is focused on elite athletes, who are at a higher risk of sustaining injuries that could lead to disability.

The researchers selected 20 former athletes who played professional sports for 3-10 years, including American football (only male participants), track and field (both male and female participants), and basketball (only female participants).

To be included in the study, participants had to have experienced chronic pain in their lower extremities for at least three months and rated their pain level at intake as at least 2 out of 10.

The athletes were treated with a 10mg CBD cream applied twice daily using a controlled dispenser. The cream was allowed to permeate the skin and was not removed by the participant. Topical administration was chosen to limit systemic absorption and improve safety and tolerability.

Participants in the study were asked to complete a form at the beginning and end of the 6-week CBD administration period to evaluate whether their self-reported levels of pain-related impairments in various daily activities improved.

The daily activities assessed included family or home responsibilities, recreation, social activities, occupational activities, sexual activities, self-care, and life-support activities.

Additionally, the participants were asked to report on their ability to perform various activities of daily living such as conducting usual work activities, conducting usual hobbies or recreational activities, getting into or out of a bath, walking between rooms, putting on shoes/socks, squatting, lifting, performing light activities, performing heavy activities, entering or exiting a car, walking two blocks, walking a mile, going up or down stairs, standing for 1 hour, sitting for 1 hour, running on even ground, running on uneven ground, taking sharp turns while running, hopping, and rolling over in bed.

Participants also kept a pain journal throughout the treatment period to track any improvements or adverse effects they experienced.

The participants were between 26 and 31 years old, consisting of 14 males (70%) and six females (30%). However, out of the 20 volunteers, 14 completed the study.

Seven participants (50% of those who completed the study) reported adverse events that might be related to the CBD treatment, but these side effects did not interfere with the participant’s ability to finish the study or require medical intervention.

All female participants experienced skin conditions like rash and dryness, while no male participants reported the same.

The study showed that 100% of the participants reported improvement in their pain-related disability in their daily activities.

On top of that, 93% reported improvement in recreational, social, occupational, and life-support activities, and 86% reported improvement in self-care.

At the end of the study, there was a significant decrease in disability related to pain, indicating that the treatment improved the participants’ quality of life.

However, this study has several limitations as it has considered a small group of participants. Furthermore, the study population of elite athletes may have different perceptions of tolerability and pain management compared to the general population, and self-reported data and lack of objective measures or biomarkers also limit the findings.

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