Move over, CBD. New study tests whole-plant cannabis to treat NFL players’ pain


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A push for cannabidiol research has gained steam in recent months, with current and former NFL players backing two studies on CBD’s efficacy in alleviating football-related pain without getting them high. But another study, led by a California-based cannabis extract producer Constance Therapeutics and the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition, aims to examine whether whole-plant cannabis is more effective than isolated compounds in treating players’ pain.

Led by Dutch researcher Dr. Arno Hazekamp, the study will include approximately 30 former NFL players in California, where marijuana is legal for medicinal purposes and soon could be legal for recreational use, as well. The players will be administered marijuana, via vapor or tincture, and monitored to determine the drug’s effectiveness in alleviating their pain and symptoms from concussions. The study, funded by donors and Constance Therapeutics, is expected to start later this summer with no set end date.

GAME OF PAIN: Why NFL players are pushing for CBD research

Chris Kluwe, a former punter who played nine years in the NFL, is among those who have volunteered to participate. Kluwe used marijuana during his career and still uses it in retirement to ease lingering pain from four knee surgeries and years of wear and tear. The study, he says, is key to not only promoting awareness of alternative, and possibly safer, pain relievers than the narcotics players often receive from teams, but to also prompt the NFL and players association to revise the substance-abuse policy.

“The way the NFL has it now is really not a bad system because what it does is it touches guys who really do have a problem and probably should get some sort of counseling,” Kluwe said. “What I’d like to see them do is be much more lenient in terms of the penalties that are assessed on guys. So instead of having someone like Josh Gordon — who gets suspended for an entire year — go, ‘OK, we’re going make resources available to you,’ but also look at it like maybe this guy really does need this to help him play this game. ‘How can we make it so that he’s still active and functional in his everyday life and able to play in the NFL as well?’”

The study will be GCC’s first, but it’s one of a growing number of cannabis studies geared toward helping NFL players and changing the league’s policies

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