CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) – The NFL is offering $1 million in grants to fund research of the benefits and safety of cannabis and CBD for treating pain in athletes.
The league and the NFL Players Association will award the grants in December.
In May, the NFL and NFL players association asked researchers with experience conducting controlled, experimental studies related to pain management to submit information that may be useful in treating players.
The pain management committee comprised of medical experts appointed by the league and the union wants to know about alternatives to opioids, including CBD (cannabidiol) and other cannabis-derivative products, that may help players recover from sports-specific and musculoskeletal injuries.
NFL.com says this is the next step in the league’s shift on the use of marijuana by players, some who have long said it is safer for them to use marijuana to treat pain than to take prescription medication.
In 2020, the league’s collective bargaining agreement brought an end to the NFL suspending players if they failed a drug test for smoking marijuana. The penalties for players testing positive for THC is reduced and suspensions are eliminated.
Now, the league wants to know more about how safe cannabis and CBD are and if they work, particularly as a potential alternative to opioids for pain management.
Up to five grants are expected to be awarded around Thanksgiving.
Dr. Kevin Hill, the co-chair of the pain management committee, director of addiction psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the author of Marijuana: The Unbiased Truth about the World’s Most Popular Weed, says the current level of interest in the use of medical marijuana far exceeds the level of evidence available.
Hill said there is some indication that using medical marijuana and CBD to treat pain may be riskier than most people realize and that the doses necessary to address pain may create risk for liver toxicity and interactions with other medications.
The NFL-NFLPA Pain Management Committee (PMC) was formed in 2019 with the goal of benefiting the health and safety of NFL players through education and research.