Cannabis and Athletes: How CBD is Used in Sports
As you probably well know, there are a multitude of health and wellness benefits associated with cannabis use and while there is still much to learn about the plant, researchers have begun to study its effects in depth and on a larger scale. One group that benefits the most from medicinal cannabis use, particularly cannabidiol, or CBD are athletes. This is not surprising when you think about the key ailments that are often treated by medical cannabis such as insomnia, anxiety, and pain management. Let’s take a deep dive into the relationship between pot and sports and look at a few athletes in the cannabis industry.
Why do athletes use cannabinoids?
Whether a professional, amateur, or college athlete, constant aches and pains are an inevitable part of playing sports. Professional athletes in particular will overtrain, get too little sleep, push their bodies to the limits, and oftentimes continue to play despite chronic pain and injury. Cannabis is chosen by athletes for pain management, muscle recovery, and inflammation. But it’s not just the physical aspects of performing at the highest level, the pressure to compete and continually be the best also takes a toll on athletes’ mental health. A study from 2016 looked at the psychological wellbeing of elite athletes and found that they have an increased risk for substance misuse, sleep deprivation, anxiety, and depression. Marijuana is a natural alternative to treat these ailments and is also a preferred substitute over strong drugs, such as opioids that athletes are often prescribed after survey. MLB is at the forefront of cannabis reform in sports, having recently legalized CBD and THC use for players, in the hopes that marijuana will reduce painkiller and opioid use amongst athletes, which has been an issue in the past.
Most professional athletes that advocate for cannabis implement the plant as part of their recovery program. Oftentimes this is in the form of topicals such as lotions and creams that are massaged and absorbed into the tissues to aid in the recuperation of a specific problem area. Some athletes also take tinctures orally or even use CBD vape pens like MMA fighter Nate Diaz, who famously vaped during a post-fight press conference after taking on Conor McGregor.
Are cannabinoids performance-enhancing?
Currently, there is no research that confirms marijuana is performance-enhancing. However, quite a few studies have looked into other ways cannabinoids can help athletes. In general, it is more common for athletes to use cannabis if the sport is considered high-risk, such as MMA, rugby, or American football. This may be connected to recovery and bud’s possible association with reducing concussion-related symptoms.
Is cannabis on the WADA prohibited list?
WADA is the World Anti-Doping Agency, which enforces and creates internationally-recognized anti-doping rules for sports. The independent agency was created in 1999 so all athletes are on a level playing field and are held to the same standards whether competing nationally or internationally. Each year, the WADA prohibited list is updated to include substances and methods prohibited either in competition only or at all times. For the first time ever, WADA ruled to allow pure CBD with no trace of THC to be used in professional sports. The 2020 list states that “all natural and synthetic cannabinoids are prohibited except cannabidiol (CBD).” This is a huge advancement for the CBD industry, the normalization of pot for medical purposes, and for sports in general.
Professional athletes who use cannabis
Nick and Nate Diaz
There are no other athletes who have brought more awareness to cannabis use in sports than the Diaz brothers. Nick and Nate Diaz were never shy about using CBD. Nate’s vaping incident caused an uproar amongst the UFC and MMA fans and even landed him a public warning from USADA, the American version of WADA. When asked about his CBD vape by the media, Nate replied “It helps with the healing process and inflammation, stuff like that. So you want to get these for before and after the fights, training. It'll make your life a better place.” Nate can be credited for changes to the UFC anti-doping policies, which previously considered the in-competition window to last six hours after a fight and has since been changed to immediately upon completion of the post-fight drug test, meaning fighters can use pot for recovery right after the test is completed. The former champions have since launched their own CBD line called Game Up Nutrition, that’s geared specifically towards improving the wellbeing of athletes.
The 2012 Olympic champion gymnast often speaks about how CBD has helped her to perform her best and reduce inflammation. Gabby shares her thoughts after hearing that WADA now allows CBD use, “my experiences in using CBD have led me to believe that I could have been more pain-free throughout my gymnastics career if CBD had been allowed. I am glad that athletes across all Olympic sports will now have the opportunity to use these products and hopefully experience their benefits.” In collaboration with a few other professional athletes, Gabby became involved in Motive CBD, a brand of topicals, chews, and tinctures for active adults.
Like most NFL players, Gronk, underwent multiple surgeries and sports-related injuries during his career. Pain was a common occurrence and something he had to live with on a daily basis. After nearly a decade and having won three Super Bowl championships, the constant injuries made him start to resent his passion for football. After retirement, his father recommended that he try a CBD topical for his foot injury and he has been CBD’s biggest advocate ever since. CBD has changed his life and Gronk has since become the face of CBDMedic and often speaks in interviews about the need to allow CBD in the NFL and other sports for recovery purposes.
Other athletes who support CBD use
- Mason Ho, Pro surfer
- Megan Rapinoe, Olympic soccer player
- Bubba Watson, Pro golfer
- Judith Hagger, Pro triathlete
- Riley Cote, NHL
- Kerri Walsh Jennings, Olympic beach volleyball player
- Yair “El Pantera” Rodriguez, MMA
- Kenyon Martin, NBA
- Lolo Jones, Olympian athlete in track and field
- Derrick Morgan, NFL
- Matt Barnes, NBA
- Floyd Landis, cyclist
- Bas Rutten, MMA
- Shane Victorino, MLB
- Steve Smith, NFL
- Joanna Zeiger, professional triathlete
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