Medical Marijuana: The NFL Inches Closer To Accepting Cannabis For Safe Pain Relief

Football, whether professional, college even high school, has long been associated with injuries and the need for effective pain management.

Former NFL greats, such as Doug Plank and Jim McMahon shared their experiences of playing through immense pain with only opioids and other painkillers for relief. However, as the conversation around cannabis continues to evolve and legalization gains momentum, the National Football League (NFL) is taking notice.

With ongoing research and shifting policies, the league seems willing to finally explore the potential benefits of cannabis for players and providing them with safer and more effective alternatives for pain management.

A Science Direct report from 2021 revealed a staggering number of injuries reported over four seasons, emphasizing the pressing need for effective pain management solutions. Unfortunately, due to the league’s strict stance on cannabis all these years, players were limited to using painkillers and opioids. 

A Paradigm Shift in the NFL

Recognizing the need for change, the NFL has made adjustments to its marijuana policy. Players now face reduced penalties for testing positive for cannabis. This policy shift enables players to seek alternative pain management options without fear of lengthy suspensions. Plank, an advocate for players’ well-being, says these changes are long overdue.

Testimonials from NFL Legends: NFL alumni, such as McMahon, have firsthand experience with the potential of cannabis as he battled severe chronic pain after retiring from a 15-season career. He was previously dependent on opioids to curb his chronic pain.

McMahon’s personal transformation was fueled by the therapeutic benefits of cannabis, per Cannatech Today. “There are so many uses for this plant,” McMahon said. “Hundreds of thousands of people are dying from [painkillers], and there’s not one case of people dying from the hemp plant.”

As the NFL considers the role of cannabis in pain management, younger players are entering the league with a more open mindset. Growing up in a world where cannabis is a part of the global conversation, they recognize the importance of education, destigmatization, and embracing the potential health benefits.

“While the burden of proof is high for NFL players who want to understand the impact of any medical decision on their performance, we are grateful that we have the opportunity to fund these scientifically-sound studies on the use of cannabinoids that may lead to the discovery of data-based evidence that could impact the pain management of our players,” said Dr. Allen Sills, NFL chief medical officer.

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