NFL awards $1 million to fund studies on cannabinoid effects on athletes

The NFL is awarding $1 million in research funding to two teams of medical researchers to study the effects of cannabinoids on pain management and neuroprotection from concussion in elite football players.

Medical teams from the University of California San Diego and University of Regina in Canada were selected from 106 proposals initiated by the NFL and the NFL Players Association’s Joint Pain Management Committee in June 2021.

“We’re always interested in trying to improve our approach and our treatment for acute and chronic pain in NFL players, and we always want to make sure that our players are receiving the most up-to-date medical consensus around any of these treatments,” NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills told The Associated Press. “So, our burden of proof is really high for NFL players. Anytime we want to introduce a new therapy, we have to understand how that decision might impact their well-being and their performance. We know there’s been a lot of interest in this area, but we did not feel like there was a lot of great solid research on the benefits of cannabis, CBD and treating acute and chronic pain. So, that’s why we wanted to try to contribute to the body of science in this area.”

Dr. Kevin Hill, the Director of Addiction Psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and a pre-eminent cannabis researcher and author, is the co-chair of the NFL-NFLPA Joint Pain Management Committee. Hill explained why there hasn’t been much research on this topic. “One reason is the scheduling of cannabis makes it harder to do this research but the main reason is that stakeholders really aren’t interested in advancing the science,” Hill told the AP. “You have states and companies that are making a lot of money selling cannabis products, selling CBD products right now. So they don’t feel the need to prove the efficacy of these products, and millions of people are using them. So that’s the predicament that we’re in as healthcare professionals or organizations that really care about the health and safety of our constituents, the players in this case."

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