Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Beyond Marijuana: Pain Management, Opioids, And The NFL

Recreational pot sanctions and medical marijuana have been hot topics in the NFL the last six years. Finally, on July 6th, the NFL reached out to the NFL Players Association to consider spending part of their “joint contribution amount” to study cannabis and its role in pain management.

Well, things got contentious fast.

Four terse letters were exchanged between the two entities. Two were from NFL general counsel Jeff Pash and the other two were from NFLPA’s union lawyer Ned Ehrlich.

The elephant in the room wasn’t pot politics, however, it was how prescription painkillers are affecting the NFL players.

In said letters, the NFLPA requested extensive data on how players are being distributed prescription painkillers. The NFL refused the request and the next battle began. The NFLPA responded that the union was “disappointed” and planned to pursue “all avenues to obtain this information.”

Sports Illustrated interviewed union chief DeMaurice Smith and provided takeaways on the matter. The most tantalizing of these started with the fact that the union will only consider medical cannabis as a form of pain management. They see all of this as the larger issue of dealing with chronic pain.

There’ve been rumors that the NFL has been “dangling” marijuana to get something back, but Smith put the kibosh on that assumption. “There’s not going to be a horse trade,” he insisted. “The minute you go down that road? You’re horse trading the health and safety of our players.”

This also implied that recreational cannabis is not a priority for the union.

Smith circled back several times during the interview to the threat of litigation to find out the information on pain pills. He explained further, “Dr. Brown, who is our joint administrator of the drug program, so far has refused our request to turn that information to us, and we believe that since we pay him and he’s our employee, he doesn’t have the right to turn to the NFL and ask their permission to abide by his contract with us. If that doesn’t get resolved, are we going to sue him over that issue? Most likely.”

The union hasn’t depended solely on the NFL for their information. They want to know what toradol does to one’s liver, if it exacerbates brain bleeds, what the impact is of taking multiple shots over multiple seasons or even weeks, and they’ve been doing their homework.

One thing is for certain, they aren’t going to find liver damage or brain bleeds with cannabis and this is just another example of where medical marijuana could potentially step in and help relieve another arena of the opioid crisis.


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