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Pain and gain: NFL, player’s association to fund alternative pain management research

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans grimaces in pain after getting taken down by Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward during an NFL game on Oct. 4, 2020, in Tampa, Fla.  (Associated Press)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans grimaces in pain after getting taken down by Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward during an NFL game on Oct. 4, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (Associated Press)
By Theresa Tanner EVERCANNABIS writer

Last year, the National Football League and the NFL Players Association ratified a 10-year labor agreement that relaxed the league’s previous policies regarding cannabis use by players. Suspension for positive tests was eliminated, the potential testing window was shortened and the threshold for failing a test was raised.

Part of the policy change stemmed from an increased interest in pain treatment through alternative methods, like non-psychoactive cannabinoids (CBD), not just by players but by society at large.

In a June 8 NFL.com article, the league and the player’s union announced that they will provide $1 million in funding for research into pain management and cannabinoids through their Joint Pain Management Committee. The research is motivated by a desire to know more about how safe cannabis and CBD are and if they work, particularly as a potential alternative to opioids.

Dr. Kevin Hill is the co-chair of the pain management committee, director of addiction psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the author of “Marijuana: The Unbiased Truth about the World’s Most Popular Weed.”

He said that the committee has heard mixed results from players about using marijuana to treat pain. Hill said that there is some indication that using medical marijuana and CBD to treat pain may be riskier than most people realize and that the doses necessary to address pain may create risk for liver toxicity and interactions with other medications.

“When we talk about having elite athletes use CBD to treat pain, we want to make sure it’s, No. 1 safe, and No. 2 efficacious. I don’t think we’re at that point yet,” said Dr. Hill.

Up to five grants are expected to be awarded around Thanksgiving.

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