CTE In The NFL Is A Problem, Can It Be Helped By Cannabis?

“It is no longer debatable whether or not there is a problem in football—there is a problem,” stated Dr. Ann McKee in a study released last week. Dr. McKee, the researcher who conducted the study reported her findings that 110 of 111 deceased NFL players had some degree of CTE, or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. CTE is a degenerative brain condition brought upon by repeated trauma to the head over a prolonged period of time.

NFL Repeatedly Losing Stars To Retirement

The study is another crushing blow to the NFL and the perception over its handling of player safety. Even NFL players are taking notice of the results of these studies. Over the last 5 years, the NFL has lost players like 23 year old A.J. Tarpley, 24 year old Chris Borland, 30 year old Hussein Abdullah, and 29 year old Eugene Monroe to retirement. All of those men cited concerns over concussions as main reasons for their retirement. Some, like Borland and Tarpley warned that retirement due to concussion concerns will begin to become a trend as more information comes out about the dangers of playing football.

Their predictions came true this week as 26 year old Ravens lineman John Urschel, who has a doctorate from M.I.T., retired after the McKee study was released. Urschel stated “objectively, I shouldn’t,” regarding his views on whether or not he should play professional football.


An Unlikely Aid To The Health Of Players

What worries players like Urschel is that there is seemingly no way to truly protect the health of the brain when playing football. However there is one thing that could be of assistance to the health of football players, and it may surprise many players and fans alike. The thing that could help may actually be cannabis, and specifically, cannabidiol, aka CBD.

For years, studies have been trickling out into public view that explain the many benefits of cannabis for a wide variance of conditions. While there is still much to be learned, there is evidence that shows CBD, one of the main compounds found in cannabis, may have neuroprotective qualities. A study conducted on mice who had suffered strokes, showed that CBD actually prevented further brain damage after the stroke. The damage that is typically brought upon by a stroke was slowed enormously by CBD treatment. While clearly the brain is damaged differently by a stroke than from trauma, the evidence proves that CBD can prevent damage to the brain in at least one way.

The NFL Must Reevaluate Its Stance On CTE And Cannabis

Due to Schedule 1 status, cannabis is not researched heavily in the United States. So until that changes, the evidence we have is the best evidence we will get. The evidence proving that cannabis can act as a neuroprotectant in some situations should be evidence enough for a league who recently agreed to pay out 1 billion dollars in a class action lawsuit to former players alleging damages from CTE.

As more players retire, suffer, and sue, the NFL will continue to have to search for ways to make the game safer. If as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell states, “We want to make sure we are doing everything possible to get the best research,” then he should take time and evaluate his current prohibitionist view of player marijuana use and consider funding research into the proven neuroprotective qualities of cannabis.


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