Football is arguably one of America’s favorite pastimes, but let’s be honest, most of us prefer to watch the game at our local sports bar than personally collide with a linebacker at full force. It should be no surprise that football hurts — and boy, does it hurt. Week 14 of this 2016 NFL season had 302 reported injuries alone!
Just how are these NFL players dealing with the pain? But more importantly, how does the NFL’s policy on cannabis come into play with state laws legalizing marijuana now that over half of the country’s states have legalized it in some form?
This year, as more states legalized medical and recreational marijuana, millions of Americans now have access to an alternative to pharmaceutical drugs for pain management. For millions of people, cannabis is preferred as a method of pain treatment over pharmaceuticals even as commonplace as over-the-counter ibuprofen.
Unfortunately for NFL players, who experience collisions during games comparable to a severe car accident according to a Virginia Tech study, cannabis is not an option to alleviate pain and there is currently no plan to change that.
According to the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA)Policy and Program on Substances of Abuse:
“The NFL and the NFLPA prohibit Players from the illegal use, possession, or distribution of drugs, including but not limited to cocaine; marijuana and synthetic cannabinoids; opiates and opioids; methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA); and phencyclidine (PCP).”
An indication that this policy is outdated is the listing of marijuana amongst the ranks of meth and PCP, similarly to marijuana’s Schedule I ranking in the Controlled Substance Act of 1970. Another indicator is that the NFLPA policy’s complete ban on marijuana conflicts with state legalization of marijuana for NFL players in those states — but unfortunately, the NFLPA policy supersedes state legalization for those NFL players.
The NFLPA has made it clear that there is no plan to change marijuana’s place in the Policy and Program on Substances of Abuse, regardless of the state’s’ stance on marijuana and studies proving how painful and long-term football injuries are.
These painful injuries tend to be leg-related, but there are also a considerable number of concussions reported by the NFL as well. These concussions have been tied to developments of the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in football players, with 96% deceased former NFL players testing positive in a study released by Frontline.
In order to treat these painful bodily injuries, NFL players are prescribed painkillers “like candy” shared Calvin Johnson. According to a survey of 226 players from the AFC and NFC conducted by ESPN, 42% reported they knew a teammate who they believe became an addict as a result of NFL painkiller abuse and 59% worry about the long-term effects of painkillers.
In the same survey, 43% of respondents said they would use marijuana over Toradol, an NSAID, if both were allowed and 61% believe that fewer players would take painkillers if marijuana were allowed.
With painkillers being linked to high rates of addiction and overdoses, it is hard to find legitimate reasons why the NFL should so rigidly defend an outdated ban on cannabis when it has the potential to alleviate almost half of NFL players from depending on painkillers to treat pain caused by playing in the NFL itself.
Considering cannabis does not pose a significant health risk and is not a performance enhancer, it is high time that the NFLPA adds reconsidering its archaic stance on cannabis to their game plan.
If you could make the call — what would you decide?
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