athletes who use cbdDecember 15, 2021
One complaint in the lawsuit claimed that former Baltimore Ravens fullback Charles Evans would take an unlabeled envelope full of Motrin and Percocet given to him by the team’s trainer, according to CNN. Evans died in 2008 of heart failure due to an enlarged heart, despite no family history of heart problems. While it was never confirmed that the drugs led directly to Evans’ death, regular use of anti-inflammatories can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke from 10% to 50%, according to the American Heart Association.
The chemical is formatted into oils and creams that can have anti-inflammatory effects if spread onto inflamed or sore parts of the body and mimic the benefits of other prescription drugs by improving mood, sleep, metabolism, and appetite.
Gronkowski is one figure who may prove to be an example of how CBD can lengthen an NFL player’s career. Gronkowski, who underwent nine surgeries in his career, retired after the 2018 season at the age of 29 due to chronic pain but returned in 2020 to win a Super Bowl with The Tampa Bay Buccanneers.
Fowler has incorporated Level Select CBD products as a central part of his athletic routine, which allows him to avoid high-risk painkillers. He believes it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a universal standard in sports recovery.
Cannabis is currently a banned substance in the NFL and NBA, which includes related substances like CBD. However, progress is being made toward loosening those restrictions across all sports.
“I think this is just the start of it,” Fowler told Insider. “There’s a lot of great benefits of not having to resort to pills or painkillers. This is something that is natural and a lot easier on the body as far as not having to break down anything.”
CBD was among the top alternatives the league was looking to explore and even requested specific information about “The impact of cannabis or cannabinoids on athletic performance in NFL players.”
Professional golfer Rickie Fowler is one of several athletes to partner with a CBD brand and advocate for its use in sports, alongside other big-name stars like NFL tight end Rob Gronkowski, women’s soccer player Megan Rapinoe, and NBA player Klay Thompson.
In 2017, more than 1,500 former players filed a class-action lawsuit accusing the league and its teams of repeatedly administering painkillers like Toradol before and during games, without disclosing long-term risks and side effects. Toradol was allegedly not even the only painkiller being pushed on players.
Professional athletes are constantly looking for innovations to push their performance level, but they’re also taking that same approach to finding the most effective recovery methods.
The NFL and the NFLPA filed a Request for Information (RFI) to researchers studying pain management alternatives to opioids in February.
The recovery from CBD helped Gronkowski achieve a “pain-free” life for the first time since he entered the league. It is what allowed Gronkowski to get into what he called “the best shape of his life” and return to the NFL last season at the age of 31 to play a productive role for Tampa Bay’s championship run. He is now one of the league’s biggest advocates for allowing players to use CBD for recovery.
“For me, it would be Advil or ibuprofen here or there, so it wasn’t anything crazy, but hearing other stories and what those products can do to your body that you don’t really feel or don’t really know about, that’s definitely something to take into account,” he said.
During Gronkowski’s year away from football, he experimented with CBD to help treat the pain he accumulated while playing football, he announced during a press conference for CBD Medic.
One example of a widely-used prescription drug among athletes that CBD may help replace is Toradol. It is an injectable nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug prominently used among athletes in all major sports, especially the NFL.
The drug comes with a high risk of internal bleeding and kidney problems—including kidney failure—when used for an extended period, which is precisely what most NFL players do with it.
CBD has allowed Fowler to limit his exposure to painkillers to this point in his career but is well aware of the greater dangers that other athletes face with dependence on more dangerous drugs.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the newest innovations in sports recovery that gives athletes an alternative to prescription painkillers and opioids. It is one of the many chemical compounds found in cannabis or marijuana plants but is free of psychoactive side effects.
“I truly believe that all athletes should be able to use it,” he told NBC.
As for why he co-founded Athletes for Care (and even started his own line of CBD products), Cote said he felt it was simply too important not to.
Today, Ahrens advocates for CBD use because of how much it has helped him. “I don’t need pain meds like I used too,” he said. “Every day on TV there are commercials advertising the next best drug, and the second half of the commercial is all about possible side effects. Well, I have never heard of a side effect from CBD.”
An unlikely new crop of cannabis supporters wants everyone to enjoy the same benefits they have.
“I enjoyed a 10-year playing career [from 1981 to 1990]. I have taken more pain pills in that time than most people have in their lifetime. I wish I had known about the benefits of CBD much earlier,” Ahrens, also an athlete advocate for Athletes for Care, told MensHealth.com.
Cote came to be a CBD believer way back in 2012 after reading the book Hemp For Health . “It opened my eyes to the world of non-intoxicating cannabinoids,” he said.
David Ahrens, 60, retired NFL linebacker.
One of the greatest supposed benefits of CBD is its potential to manage pain, which has given rise to a new crop of unlikely cannabis advocates like VandenBussche: Professionals who know what it’s like to have to overcome pain to perform their job at the highest level.
According to Cote, his personal experiences with CBD have been “nothing but positive.” He began taking it as a supplement to mitigate and minimize the potential damage he caused to his body after being in more than 250 hockey fights.
Otherwise known as CBD, cannabidiol is one of the 100+ chemical compounds, or cannabinoids, found in cannabis plants. Unlike its close chemical cousin tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, CBD cannot get you high. What it can do, purportedly, is help people sleep better, improve muscle recovery, and even assist with more dire medical conditions like epilepsy.
“I believe in all of the healing properties of this plant so much that I went out and purchased a 64-acre farm and submitted an application to Health Canada back in 2013,” he said. Currently, he’s working to turn that farm into a medical cannabis that could help others for years to come.
“I quickly realized it wasn’t just helping with my brain health, but it also added another dimension to my sleep, and its subtle calming nature helped with anxiety,” he shared.
Like many people, VandenBussche learned about CBD through “word of mouth” and his own due diligence. Once he tried it, he knew others had to learn about it too.
“As a 14-year professional athlete that has had a dozen surgeries, many broken bones, and north of 20 concussions, it’s better than the alternative,” VandenBussche shared with MensHealth.com. “As athletes, we were given opiates by our team doctors. Looking back after years gone by, I’m surprised I’m still alive.”
Athletes serving as hype men for hemp appears to be effective; in 2018, the World Anti-Doping Agency removed CBD from its list of banned substances. With more athletes poised to step into the cannabis spotlight, here are some of the early adopters on why they support CBD and how they knew it was cool before everyone else did.
“We were given opiates by team doctors. Looking back, I’m surprised I’m still alive.”
“And we were provided with a couple of beers on ice under our seat. Guess what would happen?” he said. “It wasn’t until later in my career that docs and trainers had to write down who got what and how many.”
Ryan VandenBussche, 46, retired NHL enforcer.
“I wish I had known about the benefits of CBD much earlier.”
Dozens of current and former pro athletes have publicly come out in support of further clinical testing and full access to CBD. Some have founded organizations like Athletes for Care, which offers resources for athletes, urges further research, and promotes CBD use. Others have gone so far as to invest or partner in CBD or marijuana companies.
Ahrens says doctors would even walk the aisle of the team plane and hand out pills en route to and from road games.
[Ed. note: Make sure to discuss potential side effects and/or reactions to other medications with your physician before trying CBD for the first time.]
But that badge of honor came with a price. Nearly two decades worth of big collisions, battles for loose pucks, and bare-knuckle brawls resulted in broken bones, surgeries, and more than 20 concussions. Scars healed, but the pain lingered.
In his younger days, Ryan VandenBussche lived a life others would consider a dream. At just 19 he was already playing professional hockey, first in the minor leagues and then moving on to the big time in the NHL. Over 14 years, he became known as one of the toughest enforcers in the league.
Like Vandenbussche, Ahrens came to discover CBD for himself after hearing about it over and over again. One of 136 former Indianapolis Colts players named in a 2011 concussion lawsuit against the NFL, Ahrens spent years using opioids to manage his chronic, post-playing pain before trying CBD.
Riley Cote, 36, retired NHL winger.
The dream could have become a nightmare for VandenBussche if he chose to go down the painkiller rabbit hole. But he didn’t. He found cannabidiol.
“All the doctors ever gave us was codeine, Tylenol-Codeine No. 3, and other stuff,” he said. “In the beginning of my career, it was handed out like candy. We had to play. There was no care about player health—only your performance was important.”
Now, VandenBussche teaches others about what CBD can and can’t do for you.
“It’s very clear to me now that there is a much better and more sustainable way to manage what I call the recovery process,” he said, adding that it’s all about allowing an athlete—professional or otherwise—to live their best life. “It doesn’t matter who you are. We all have to manage these things to live a higher quality of life without taking a bunch of pharmaceuticals that typically create dependency and addiction.”
But even though some athletes have been using CBD in their training regime for this year’s Olympics, they have not been able to use it while in Tokyo due to the country’s strict anti-cannabis laws.
This is because THC is absorbed into the fat stores and comes out of the body over several days so it can show up in urine samples or blood tests.
“There’s a lot of solid science behind CBD for its medical properties,” Mike Barnes, a professor of neurology and chair of the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society, told Euronews Next.
Is CBD the future for athletes?
US footballer and Olympian Megan Rapinoe, who says she uses CBD to boost her performance, has been criticised for promoting her sister’s CBD company in a forbes.com article.
There are over 140 cannabinoids in the plant. The most known one is the delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is the main psychoactive compound and alters the mind or behaviour.
These three particular ways CBD can help athletes can also be beneficial to the general public, he said.
The cannabis (marijuana) plant produces the cannabinoid compound or synthesizes it as a chemical known as a synthetic cannabinoid.
There are many ways to take it, one of the most popular for athletes being an oil form by putting a few drops under the tongue and swallowing, or it can even be eaten in gummies.
This is largely due to CBD becoming more socially accepted and is being touted for its medical and well-being properties.
Technology is also allowing better and more efficient methods of extraction.
Why are THC and cannabis banned but not CBD?
Another way CBD can help athletes is that it can help with sleep, which can be an issue for sports people, particularly those who have to travel to different time zones for events.
Barnes said there will likely be an increase in synthetic CBD but he believes there is much more benefit to extracting compounds from the whole cannabis plant and taking out the THC.
Another possible reason for the THC ban, Barnes points out, is that it stays in the system for five to seven days, despite the effects wearing off in a matter of hours.
CBD is legal in almost every European country but the THC level must be below 0.2 per cent if not it is classified as a narcotic.
The controversy over the discrepancy in how cannabis and its other forms like CBD are viewed has caused people to allege hypocrisy and racism by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the Olympic Games’ anti-doping agency.
What is CBD?
Barnes said he believed it is because world bodies such as WADA and the World Health Organization (WHO) saying CBD is safe that more countries will eventually make the compound legal.
Meanwhile, Black sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson was suspended from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games after testing positive for marijuana in July.
In January 2021, the European Commission changed its preliminary assessment on CBD oil and stated the compound is not a narcotic and “can be qualified as food”. It also said CBD products should be able to move between member states.
Without specifying the reason, WADA states: “All natural and synthetic cannabinoids are prohibited except for cannabidiol (CBD). Cannabis, hashish, and marijuana are prohibited. Products, including foods and drinks, containing cannabinoids, are also prohibited. All synthetic cannabinoids that mimic the effects of THC are prohibited”.
Over recent years, the CBD market has exploded, especially in Europe.
In 2017, WADA removed CBD but not other cannabinoids from its list of prohibited substances. The rule change did not take effect until January 1, 2018, which gave athletes little time to start incorporating CBD into their regimes for the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang the same year.