Former NFL Players to Participate in Cannabis Study

A new study designed to explore cannabis’ effects on both pain and symptoms associated with concussions will feature about 30 former National Football League players.

Approximately 30 former National Football League players will participate in a study examining cannabis, the Denver Post reports.

The privately funded study, led by Dutch researcher Dr. Arno Hazekamp, will involve administering marijuana via tincture or vapor and monitoring the substance’s effects on pain and concussion symptoms. The study is scheduled to begin later this summer.

Dr. Hazekamp sits on the advisory board of Medical Marijuana, Inc. investment AXIM® Biotechnologies, a research and development company aimed at producing cannabis-based pharmaceuticals. Dr. Hazekamp received his Ph.D after focusing his studies on the medicinal properties of cannabis, becoming a world-renowned cannabis expert in the process. Although AXIM® Biotech is not involved in this study, another Medical Marijuana, Inc. portfolio company, Kannalife™ Sciences is conducting their own independent research into concussion-related brain damage, which was featured recently on Sports Illustrated.

Cannabis use is currently banned by the NFL’s substance abuse policy, but over past months, current and former players have advocated for a loosening of the rules and encouraged the league to investigate cannabis’s potential therapeutic efficacy on pain and concussion-related brain disease like chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Research indicates that the cannabinoids in cannabis are a more effective and safer option for players than opioids, which the athletes currently take for pain relief. Additionally, the United States Government National Institutes of Health has a patent entitled “Cannabinoids as Antioxidants and Neuroprotectants,” which documents how CBD can protect against CTE and other neurodegenerative disorders. Former star running back Ricky Williams told Sports Illustrated that despite the league’s ban, as many as 70 percent of NFL players smoke marijuana.

Among the former professional athletes participating in the study is Chris Kluwe, a punter in the NFL for nine years. Kluwe admits to using marijuana during his playing career and says he continues to use it to manage lingering pain.

“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 told the Denver Post. “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?’”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in February that there are no plans to change the league’s marijuana policy. However, just recently it was reported that league officials have actively inquired with cannabinoid researchers on marijuana’s pain-relieving effects.

While the fact that NFL officials are open to cannabis is significant, Kluwe believes the league wouldn’t change its substance-abuse policies until marijuana becomes legal federally.

“Until marijuana is legal on the federal level, then the NFL just isn’t going to touch it because then you run into trafficking issues,” Kluwe said. “I can understand why the NFL isn’t really looking to get involved in this right now in terms of on an institutional level, but I think that they should be looking to set pieces in place so once it does become legal, they’re ready to move to add it to their toolkit, just like anything else in the training room.”

In the works are two additional studies examining cannabis’ effects on former NFL players. Funded in part by a group of former Denver Broncos players, the studies will specifically examine cannabidiol (CBD) derived from hemp rather than marijuana. The studies could prove to be significant because hemp is naturally low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient that causes a high. The NFL’s substance-abuse policy pertains specifically to testing positive for THC, so there’s a chance players using CBD derived from hemp could use the substance without testing positive for THC.