The NFL remains one of the few sports leagues that prohibits players from even using CBD creams in recovery and treatment.
In the past year or so, many professional sports organization have slowly embraced cannabidiol (CBD) as an alternative recovery option. UFC fighters, Olympians, professional golfers, runners, tennis players, and the amateur athlete alike can use CBD to train and heal. Last month, Major League Baseball announced it removed CBD and THC from its Drugs of Abuse list, partly due to growing concern around addiction to opioid painkillers.
The National Football League, however, remains against its players using CBD to recover from injury. Football is among the most physically devastating sports, with many athletes incurring long-term damage to their bodies and brains following their playing days. Earlier this month, the NFL announced that it maintains the stance enough information and research is not available to support claims CBD can treat acute and chronic pain.
“CBD is a promising compound, but the extent of its use in the United States outpaces the level of evidence,” wrote a pain management committee formed between the NFL and its players union.
Many former football players have advocated the league on allowing current athletes to use cannabis and CBD. Notable figures like Ricky Williams, Jake Plummer, and Chris Long have come out in favor of allowing marijuana in the league. Former New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski recently became a leader in using CBD in recover for athletes.
“I’m advocating for CBD to be acceptable for all players for recovery,” he said. “You can just call me Mr. Recovery. You know you like that name. Mr. Recovery, baby.”
While opening all forms of cannabis to players is one thing, what remains confusing is why the NFL remains against CBD. This is especially perplexing when it comes to CBD topicals, says Eric Smart, a triathlete and CEO of Myaderm, which manufactures CBD cream products. Though the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t provided guidelines on CBD in food products, it has permitted the use of CBD topicals. In a statement, the FDA wrote, that “certain cosmetic ingredients are prohibited or restricted by regulation, but currently that is not the case for any cannabis or cannabis-derived ingredients.”
Because CBD topicals are an emerging market, Smart admits, it presents unique challenge. “Most CBD products are illegal and so people are left vulnerable to bogus product claims and deceptive marketing gimmicks,” he told The Fresh Toast. But players could follow simple rules to ensure they aren’t being fooled when using CBD.
“For professional athletes who are allowed to use CBD and those leading an active lifestyle, they should ensure that it is topical only, made in an FDA registered facility, has a high concentration of CBD vs. other ingredients like menthol and sold by a national, reputable retailer,” Smart said.
After the Super Bowl, players from the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs can being using cannabis and CBD products without penalty until April 20. Ironically, 4/20 is when the NFL starts testing players again for cannabis and other drugs. The NFL will continue to study marijuana and reports indicate the league is prepared to change its substance abuse policy in the upcoming CBA negotiations. But for now, even rubbing CBD cream on sore muscles remains prohibited for NFL athletes.
“If the federal government says CBD is good enough for consumers, then it should be acceptable for all athletes, especially NFL players,” Smart said. “As the League continues to study this issue, I hope that common sense, and not ignorance, wins the day.”