Can CBD help against NFL players suffering from brain damage?

I often wonder about what NFL players will do once they retire. The injuries they take are so gruesome that there has to be some kind of problems with their health after they retire. According to BU, CTE can be defined as “a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in people with a history of repetitive brain trauma, including symptomatic concussions as well as subconcussive hits to the head that do not cause symptoms” (Boston University). One sport that is prone to repetitive brain trauma? You guessed it! The National Football League. Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or as it is commonly known, CTE, is without a doubt the biggest obstacle in the path of the longevity of the NFL. This article does not intend to promote the use of marijuana among individual, however it does hope to show how cannabidiol, which is found in THC, may help NFL players against CTE.

Josh Keefe wrote about Leonard Marshall, a former NFL player, who was told in 2013 he showed signs of CTE. Because of this, he turned to cannabis (Keefe 2016). Marshall believes cannabidiol, which is also known as CBD, is essential to NFL players (Keefe 2016). However CBD products have THC, which is not quite legal in some states (Keefe 2016).

According to Josh Keefe, there are two huge benefits to THC. The first being is it a hugely effective pain reliever (Keefe 2016). Many NFL players get hooked on to pain killers (Keefe 2016). Pain killer are greatly addictive, so a non-addictive pain relieving solution would be a huge feat for current and former NFL players (Keefe 2016). In a study using nabilone, which has THC, 82 cancer patients were given nabilone and said they felt improvements in their pain. Those not given the drug did not feel improvement (Russo 2008). However, there are problems with this study. Seventeen patients dropped out of the experiment (Russo 2008). Additionally, the experiment was not randomized nor was it controlled (Russo 2008). As we learned in class, you need a control group for comparison. Because of this it may be hard to use this study as concrete proof THC helps with pain relief.

However, moving further down the study,  Sativex, a cannabis spray, was used in many studies and greatly reduced pain. According to the study, 160 subjects were used in a Phase III double-blind RCT SAFEX study. These subjects had symptoms of MS (Russo 2008). 137 patients continued their use of Sativex, and these patients received a huge decline in pain in the first twelve weeks. They also had improvements, albeit slower, for longer than a year. This study certainly shows that Sativex is a solution to pain relief.


Another reason why the NFL should look to expand the use of CBD among players is because it protects the brain from injury (Keefe 2016). Newborn pigs were used in an experiment to show the benefits of CBD.  While pigs or rats may not be enough to pursued somebody to the benefits of CBD, a study using children might. The previously mentioned article from Josh Keefe highlights Charlotte Figi, a child with an uncommon form of epilepsy called Dravet syndrome, was cured with large amount of CBD, and a low amount of THC in the form of medical marijuana (Keefe 2016). Another child named Ziki Jackson suffered over 500,000 seizures in his life by the age of five (Keefe 2016). He was given the same CBD as Figi and Jackson no longer had seizures (Keefe 2016). CBD helped these children, and while these anecdotal tales are promising they are only a start. The only way to tell the full extent of CBD is to continue to test. But the biggest takeaway that one can make from this article is that CBD may indeed be what keeps the NFL from extinction by being able to protect their players from painkillers and brain injuries. I believe this could prolong the lives of all NFL players. The NFL must do more research on this issue instead of sweeping it under the rug like they have been rumored to do

Leave a Reply