NFL Holds Forum Investigating the Use of CBD Products in Pain Management

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The Pain Management Committee of the NFL and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) on Tuesday held an educational forum to learn more about CBD’s potential use in treatment of pain. The session invited manufacturers of CBD products designed for use in sports medicine to present “scientific research and evidence regarding the use of CBD products [in pain management], and more information about which products are available, and how their use could benefit patients,” according to NFL.com reporter Judy Battista.

The meeting was part an ongoing investigation into pain management for athletes.

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“The NFL-NFLPA Pain Management Committee is a jointly formed committee tasked with providing advice to the league and union regarding recent developments in the area of pain management for elite athletes,” the committee said in a statement. “In furtherance of its duties, the Committee has been asked to brief the parties on the current state of pain management and alternative therapies, including cannabis, cannabinoids, and CBD.

“This meeting was an educational and scientific exercise and does not impact the jointly administered Policy and Program on Substances of Abuse,” the committee continued.

The committee recently sent two white papers to the NFL analyzing potential alternatives to opioids for pain, one paper intended for players and the other for medical staff. The papers detailed many possible pain treatment options, including over-the-counter medicines such as aspirin and acetaminophen. Ultimately the papers concluded CBD has not been researched thoroughly enough to allow players to medicate with it. 

“CBD is a promising compound, but the extent of its use in the United States outpaces the level of evidence,” the paper directed to medical staff stated.

The white papers also addressed growing calls for players to be able to use THC-based products for pain relief. Unsurprisingly, neither paper recommend players being allowed to do so.

“Of course, cannabis remains a banned substance under the NFL Policy for Substances of Abuse,” the medical staff paper read. “In addition, the potential problems associated with cannabis, from acute impairment of driving, addiction, and exacerbation of psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety, make it a substance to approach with extreme caution.”

The NFL’s strong stance against THC and CBD has been a point of contention with players for years. Former Pro-Bowl running back Ricky Williams famously sat out several seasons because of his cannabis use. Many other players have come out in support of CBD in recent months, including Franco Harris, Rob Gronkowski, Steve Smith Sr., and Jonathan Stewart.

A failed drug test for cannabis by players still results in automatic suspensions in the NFL. Other professional sports leagues, including Major League Baseball, have moved away from this policy. Now THC and CBD have been removed from the league’s list of banned substances.

“Going forward, marijuana-related conduct will be treated the same as alcohol-related conduct,” MLB tweeted recently.

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