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Opioid Use in the NFL and Medical Marijuana Proposal

NFL players get injured. A lot. And with these injuries comes pain. For pain, the treatment often includes the use of prescription painkillers. A recent survey of former and current NFL players had revealed that opioid use is rampant among professional football athletes. According to the NFL Players Association, the opioid problem is due to the increased number of injuries among these athletes. In 2011, there were almost 4,500 minor injuries in the NFL, and a 17% increase in moderate injuries among NFL players.

According to the survey, which involved more than 150 players, 91% of players reported that they had used opioids in the past. Prescription pain medicines, such as hydrocodone and oxycodone, are often prescribed by team doctors. Almost half of players surveyed reported feeling pressured to use these drugs by staff, team physicians, and other players.

The Gridiron Cannabis Coalition and CBD

Many NFL players and team affiliates have supported the use of medical marijuana for injury treatment. Current Tennessee Titans linebacker Derrick Morgan and former Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Eugene Monroe are both in support of medical marijuana. These NFL players believe that medical marijuana would be beneficial for players who could otherwise become addicted to opioids. Ex-NFL players who support cannabis have formed the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition, which is dedicated to the advancement of medical marijuana in football. With 20,000 overdose deaths a year attributed to opioids, the coalition reports professional athletes who use opioids are at higher risk for suicide and overdose deaths.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of 60-plus cannabinoids found in cannabis (marijuana). However, CBD is a non-psychoactive product that does not produce a high. The NFL players who support medical marijuana propose this as an alternative because CBD produces pain relief effects. McMahon has been bothered by many painful conditions following his 15-year career in the NFL. He was taking around 100 Percocet pills a month. Now, he is off prescription drugs using medical marijuana, which is much safer, according to an interview with the player in the Chicago Tribune.

Benefits of Medical Marijuana

According to health officials, 91 people die in American each day from opioid abuse. In addition, 70% of NFL players surveyed confessed that they had once had an opioid problem and was concerned about addiction. The addictive nature of opioids is well-documented. However, medical marijuana has been proven to effectively treat pain, and 88% of players said they would use it if it were an acceptable method in the NFL.

Medical marijuana has many health benefits, according to a 2007 clinical study. Researchers found that marijuana effectively reduced neuropathic (nerve-related) pain. In another study by the American Academy of Neurology found that marijuana reduced muscle spasms and stiffness in patients with multiple sclerosis. In addition, two FDA-approved altered forms of THC (nabilone and dronabinol) were found to reduce chemotherapy related nausea and vomiting in many cancer patients. Because of the benefits marijuana has, the National Institutes of Health are conducting studies regarding THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids for medical usage.

Resources (2017). New survey of NFL players reveals league pressure to take opioids. Retrieved from:
Livescience (2015). Medical Marijuana: Benefits, Risks & State Laws. Retrieved from:

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